Forwarding of emails is one of the topics I get contacted about the most. And, one which also causes hurt feelings and misunderstandings more than any other topic. E-mails flow in from onliners asking about a “nice way” of telling someone they care about, relative, friend or associate to not forward attachments, chain emails, religious and political commentary or the jokes that are so prevalent online.
Netizens are afraid to ask others to stop and those who are asked to stop, no matter how nicely, get offended and feel as though their thoughtfulness is not appreciated. But let’s think about this a moment. How really thoughtful is it to click the forward arrow, then a bunch of e-mail addresses and hit send? Well, your brain had to “think” about those steps but does that make that effort truly “thoughtful.” I don’t think so…
Here are the 5 Rules of Forwarding E-mails that those who are being truly thoughtful follow. If everyone followed these simple little rules all the problems associated with forwarded e-mails could be avoided. Sticking to these guidelines will assist both those thinking they are thoughtful and those who don’t want to appear otherwise:
- Don’t forward anything without editing out all the forwarding >>>>, other e-mail addresses as well as headers and commentary from all the other forwarders. Don’t make folks look among all the gobbledygook to see what it is you thought was worth forwarding. If you must forward, only forward the actual “guts” or content of the e-mail that you are of the opinion is valuable. Check out this neat free program to help you out: Email Stripper. For Macs: TextSoap 7
- If you cannot take the time to write a personal comment to the person you are sending to at the top of your forwarded e-mail – then you shouldn’t forward it at all.
- Think carefully about if what you are forwarding will be of value (accurate information — check for hoaxes @ Snopes.com), appreciated (something the recipient needs) or humorous (do they have the same sense of humor as you do) to the person on the other side. Or do you just think it is worthy? If you cannot think of why the person you are forwarding to would like to receive the e-mail – then don’t forward it. If on company time using company e-mail — think not twice, but three times if forwarding is worth the risk of your on the job credibility and professionalism being diminished.
- It should go without saying (But I have to say it because folks do so anyway.) that forwarding of chain letters; regardless how noble the topic may seem, virus warnings or anything that says “forward to everyone you know” simply shouldn’t be forwarded because in most cases it is plain old B.S. (again check before forwarding @ Snopes.com). E-mail is e-mail–there is no chain to break or continue–no cause or effect whether you do or not. Also, the fact is not all commentary will be appreciated by the other side if they have a different viewpoint than you do–be very careful here.
- If you must forward to more than one person, put your e-mail address in the TO: field and all the others you are sending to in the BCc: field to protect their e-mail address from being published to those they do not know. This is a serious privacy issue! Do not perpetuate a breach of privacy started by other forwarders who included their contact’s addresses in the To: or Cc: field by continuing to forward those visible addresses to your contacts! Remove any e-mail addresses in the body of the e-mail that have been forwarded by those who brush off the privacy of their friends and associates.
The above 5 rules will help qualify if an e-mail is worth forwarding and the right way to do so if it is. If these efforts cannot be made, then there is no excuse to get mad or have hurt feelings when asked to stop. And if asked to stop forwarding, one shouldn’t get mad; just realize the person on the other side certainly has the right to make that request.
On an aside, also keep in mind that if you are forwarding a private e-mail that was sent to you, you must get the sender’s permission to forward it on to others (or post it publicly). E-ails are copyright protected by their authors. Not only that, common courtesy dictates that you should ask the author first if the e-mail sent for your eyes only can be forwarded to strangers or others for which it was not originally intended.
At the end of the day, when it comes to receiving unwanted forwarded e-mails, if you fear hurting someone’s feelings by asking them to stop forwarding you e-mail, know they probably meant well, were really thinking of you, were trying to make a point – ahhh, just hit delete!