Sunday, December 22, 2013

email conversations - argggss!

Writing emails often makes me anxious. Especially, if it's about important stuff or emails to people I don't know in person, so I have no clue how they interpret writing styles. If I write in my mother tongue I have my emails checked by my partner by now - because  the recipients sometimes thought they were not appropriately phrased even though I thought they were polite. He is the master of being polite and additionally the master of punctuation. My emails have improved a lot since then. Emails in English I have to master on my own. I found that especially Australians are quite forgiving if  I miss the right tone, but it's nevertheless an art I want to master.
Now the tricky situation is, if I am very polite and everything in an email about an urgent matter, but I don't get any replies. The matter is urgent to me and not necessarily to the emails addressee, even though it is about a project proposal we both agreed to get started. So after my first email I might wait 2-3 weeks until I write a polite follow-up email. I know that everybody is busy and I don't want to step on anybody's toes. After my follow-up I get a short reply that does not answer even half of my questions. My deadline on this urgent matter moves closer and I start to get nervous. I write another email a bit later, more detailed, collecting everything I want to discuss in one email, so I don't have to bother my colleagues more often than necessary. I'm still very polite, but I point out my deadline - knowing that it is my deadline not theirs. After about a week of waiting with no reply I write another follow up. I get a reply the next day saying that I'll get the answers to my questions in the next few days. After "the next few days" I get an email saying that it'll take a bit longer, at least until after next weekend.
After next weekend there is Christmas, my colleagues won't be at uni and maybe they are on holiday until January - which would be very nice for them and an understandable reason why they don't reply on emails. But as I urgently need their detailed replies and maybe even a bit of discussion about one or two things, it might as well mean that I miss my deadline - which is of course mine and not theirs.
These are the moments when I find it very hard to keep my writing polite without having the sarcasm dripping out of it. It's very hard to convince people to reply with decent answers if you are not high up on their priority list and I'm certainly lacking the mind-reading abilities to find each persons individual trigger to move me up this list. However, so far I thought that at least replying about when the decent reply will come (and then sticking to it)  without the need for frequent follow-up emails was a generally accepted etiquette. As I'm not in the position to test my skills in writing increasingly angry emails, I'll have to stick to the polite ones - and it's good that my partner can prevent me from sliding into the angry-category. Maybe I should attend an email writing seminar, maybe I should just collaborate with people I have at least the Skype contacts off. I really can't deal with being so dependent when all I can do is sit, wait and write polite follow-up emails - this is SO FRUSTRATING!

No comments:

Post a Comment