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10 October 2012

E-Mailing Mr.Smith - An imaginary acquaintance

Mr.Smith is an imaginary name. Here in India we don't name our children as Smith.

This is about a real person, whom for the purpose of this article, I shall call as Mr.Smith. I don't want him to know that I am writing about him.

Outside of this article, I won't call him Mr.Smith, of course. That would be silly. I will call him by his real name which is Mr.....(had you there, hadn't I? for a moment you thought I was about to reveal my secret)

Mr.Smith is a person with whom I recently got acquainted with. Due to various circumstances, I have to write emails to him once a while. 

I have had disastrous experiences writing emails to him. Somehow, through reading my mails, without even talking to me, he has got it in himself that I don't like him. Which is wrong since he is one of my casual acquaintances and I have no stake in either liking or disliking him. When it comes to Mr.Smith, I am neutral.

The problem is that when reading the mail, Mr.Smith perceives what people 'might have been' thinking when they wrote the  mail. He goes through the mail with a fine toothcomb. He checks to see if he is the main recipient or he is in cc list, who are the other addressees in the mail, what is the subject line, how does the subject line sounds like, feels like, how is the body of the mail starts, does it starts with a simple 'Hello' or 'Hi'  or does it start formally as 'Hello Mr.Smith' etc...He also checks each and every word in the mail to see the hidden connotations, hidden agendas and hidden meanings.

Mr.Smith, almost always, thinks only the negative connotations of the mail. And unlike others, he takes action.

The action he takes is always tangential. He will not respond to me but to others. He will not mention what he thought about after he reads my mail, but will convey something and expect that others understand what he is talking about. This can be a problem for the recipient of his mails since they have no clue of what he is talking about. 

I tried telling him that he should call me back if he did not like what I have mentioned in the mail. But he never gets back to me. 

For a person like me, who like to click 'Reply All' with gay abandon, type a mail on the computer while listening to music, watching a video on my iPad and reading the latest Archer, who always start the mail with 'Hi' (sometimes not even that)  and hit the mail running without even a cursory 'How are things', and start off the mail without any context, and in whose mail, the body of the mail is totally delinked from the subject of the mail....

Writing a mail to Mr.Smith can be stressful.

I have learned my lesson the hard way. Nowadays I plan well in advance before writing to Mr.Smith. I look carefully at the addressee list. I almost never do a 'Reply all' without checking the recipient list and if Mr.Smith is in either the addressee list or the recipient list, I edit the subject of the mail and start off the mail with a formal 'Hello Mr.Addressee.....'

And I am very careful about what I write in the mail. Before I write any word I try to think what Mr.Smith will perceive as my thoughts as I wrote this mail. I try to think the way Mr.Smith will think I thought when I wrote the mail. I think not my thoughts, but his version of my thoughts. 

I do this exercise even if Mr.Smith is not the mail recipient. Who knows what Mr.Smith can think?

It has not been easy. It has been stressful. I let the steam off in my next mail. The recipient of my next mail gets it, full on. 'Reply All' is clicked with vengeance, even if only one person need to be replied to. Subject remains 'Re: Obama's Fortunes in the upcoming elections' and the body goes like 'I plan to reduce my weight by 8 KG in two months'. The mail starts with 'Hi' and the mail starts off  'sin context'.

I violate every email etiquette out there. Every one of them.

Once I do that I am relieved. 

Oh, and by the way, I have lost quite a few acquaintances in the past few months.

I don't know why.

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