This one might be controversial, it might even seem a little contrary to what I usually write about email, but I think it is an important part of being a professional, polite human being and so I will write about it.
When someone sends you an email, replying with the answer to a question you have asked, or sending you the file you asked for, always send a one or two line thank you email. Yes, I know this means you are adding to someone else’s inbox load, but a single line saying “thanks for the file, Jim” can very easily be deleted and can be seen from the lock screen of a mobile device. It doesn’t have to be opened.
There are a number of very good reasons for doing this, and just basic common decency is one of them, but for me the most important one is that those little niggling questions in my mind “did they get the file? Was it the right file?, Did I answer their question correctly?” Have now been sent away. I can forget about it and I can move on to the next world changing problem I am solving. The loop has been closed as they say in GTD speak.
That other time a quick response would be nice is when I ask a question and you need a little time to get the answer. Please, a quick email explaining it will take a few days to get the answer, or find the file would do a lot for my feeling of relaxation and Zen like existence. It also means I am not going to bombard you with reminder emails all day asking if you received my email — such a waste of effort for both of us, don’t you think?
I know we are all very busy in our own little worlds, but that does not excuse us from basic good manners. It is these basics that has enabled our civilisation to live in general harmony throughout our 200,000 year existence and has allowed us to develop ourselves from crude, neanderthals into decent, polite human beings.
In my professional experience, I have found the people who always say thank you are the people at the top of their organisations. The CEOs, the professors in the large hospitals and the Managing Partners of large law and accountancy firms. Strange that. We always think these people are the busiest people, and they are, yet they still find time for good manners. Perhaps one of the reasons they got to the top of their respective fields is because they took the time to remember to be polite and show good manners.
So come on, let’s all make the effort to be polite, well mannered people and send those little, simple responses. There’s enough stress in our working lives as it is.
Carl Pullein is the author of Your Digital Life: Everything you need to know to get your life organised and put technology to work for you, a book about how to get yourself organised in the twenty-first century.