Return to Sender

It’s a mathematical fact that you can never be 100% sure an email has arrived.  Never.  It’s a heady concept, but the proof stems from the fact that there’s always a nonzero chance that one of the following doesn’t arrive: the email that was sent, the confirmation, the confirmation of the confirmation…and so on.

Practically speaking, emails do tend to arrive, but that lack of certainty is a good analogy for how we can over-rely on email. All too often, conversations unfold like this:

“Hey, did you manage to set up that meeting you were hoping to line up.” [you know, the one you’ve been saying for the past three months you really want to make happen].

“Nah, I haven’t heard back yet.”

This is a lazy, backward-leaning response that comes either from fear or lack of commitment or both.  It’s not the way you act if you care more about the result than you do about going through the motions.

Here’s the counterexample: today I got a phone call from Germany from a guy I’ve never met, following up on an email I hadn’t read.  He’s offering (for free) an interesting training software that at first blush doesn’t seem too relevant to me.  And it may not be.  But the guy called, and in the 5 minutes we spent on the phone, I got a sense of him, of his enthusiasm, and I heard his pitch of the idea.  And I’ve now got the demo software in my inbox, which I’m about a million times more likely to download than I had been if I’d just received his email.

Bully for him – he’s doing his job.

The asynchronicity of email is a blessing and a curse.  Often – especially with newer, less well-established relationships – it can be a crutch.  “I emailed and I didn’t hear back” let’s you pretend that you tried hard enough, which you didn’t.

Plus since everyone is over-relying on email these days, it’s made it a hundred times easier to stand out by just picking up the darn telephone.

Go ahead.  It still works. And I bet you get a human being on the other end, not an Inbox, and wasn’t that the point in the first place?

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