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Sad Commentary: Lack of Courtesy and Civility Online

The fact you are reading my Blog shows you care about E-mail Etiquette and Netiquette and have an interest in “communicating with knowledge, understanding and courtesy.” That’s my tagline — but maybe I should add a another word. Civility.

Civility is not about dousing strongly held views. It’s about making sure that people are willing to respect other perspectives.
~ Jim Leach

Not a lot of that online lately, is there?

Today, I’m going to provide a window into what it is like running an email etiquette website. I know it’s not just my website where this happens so I guess I’m using it as a metaphor of what communicating online may be degrading to.

By the way, this is not just about E-mail Etiquette. Yep, there’s Forum Etiquette and Website Etiquette too!

I’m going to be selfish and vent a bit if that’s okay. By sharing my experience it may help those who trip on this article to realize how formatting and words matter.

Website Inquiries: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Although the interest level in regard to E-mail Etiquette has become more mainstream, there still seems to be an overall lack of courtesy from many who email me. Earlier this week, after reading the latest site “request”, it dawned on me. Some believe that I am a public servant here to cater to any emailer’s demands. (Or if they don’t like something, they have the right to send me four-letter word laden complaints.)

When restraint and courtesy are added to strength, the latter becomes irresistible.
~ Mahatma Gandhi

That is the risk you take having a website. If any of you have a Blog or website you know what I mean, right? You open your inbox to find these emails that make you wonder what kind of person would type that? Did they even read the site? Is my Search bar still there?

After all those thoughts run through my head, they are followed by “they must not be a happy person”. Why else would they communicate in that manner with someone they don’t know or have had any previous personal contact with?

I actually have a bunch of websites that I run. Only the email etiquette websites though, including my Business E-mail Etiquette Blog, are the ones that get nasty emails. That’s called irony!

But it’s not just my websites is it? We see this type of “communication” across the web. In comment sections and on social media. In some cases it is actually cringe-worthy.

It’s Easy to be Nice

It is not uncommon for me to get an email asking demanding information of interest to that site visitor. Onliners contacting an E-mail Etiquette site asking E-mail Etiquette questions with no courtesy. At all. No thank you in advance, no niceties, no appreciate the time — nothing but a demand for answers.

They just seem to care about the questions they have and want answers. I actually get emails telling me to write about a subject and then when I do to email it to them. That has happened a bunch of times. No please, can you, if you don’t mind. Just do it.

Then there are the emails letting me know they disagree with this or that. Bold type, red type, all caps. Not in a way that adults who share opposing opinions communicate. Nope. This is where the nasty comes in. It’s just as easy to be nice as it is to be rude, isn’t it?

I do not take it personally — no matter how personal the Sender may try to make it.

I get a bunch of email. More than most would even believe. Priorities dictate that my consulting clientele always come first, after that I have all my websites, and add to that I am active on community forums and groups.

My email etiquette sites and time spent on forums and groups are not income producing activities. I look at them all as opportunities to help, to give back based on my 23 years of online experience. My community service efforts so to speak.

With this level of volume, guess who gets answered last? Yep, the you get more bees with honey thing.

Courtesy is a silver lining around the dark clouds of civilization; it is the best part of refinement and in many ways, an art of heroic beauty in the vast gallery of man’s cruelty and baseness.
~ Bryant H. McGill

So why be nasty?

It may be the extreme weather or whatever moon phase is in effect at the time. But one thing is clear, too many folks forget that there are living breathing human beings on the other side of these screens. Or they figure since that since they are not face-to-face, not only are they bolder, the formalities of being nice and courteous do not matter.

Well, they do matter.

Truth be told if face-to-face with me, the majority of these emailers would probably choose their words more carefully. I guess what these terse and demanding folks do not realize is that those of us with free sites who answer emails personally, and offer what information we can to help, are not obligated in any way to do so.

If you want to be nasty — that reflects on you — not me.

Let me also note that I don’t think all these type of emails are meant to be as terse and demanding as they are perceived. Best case scenario, these are folks that just don’t know better. Worst case, they just don’t care.

Opportunity Calling!

So I use my response as an opportunity to be an example of how to communicate online with the written word. In a way that provides the answers sought and little bit of “did you know” about their perceived intent and tone.

The same approach is used on forums and groups with keyboard warriors who take no time or thought to include just a tad of courtesy.

What always makes my day are the great emails and forum responses I receive from thoughtful, courteous and caring folks. Their words far outweigh the nasty-grams. If anything those folks keep me plugging away, which even after almost two decades, I still enjoy doing.

Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.
~ Henry Clay

I do all this E-mail Etiquette stuff because I am passionate about the subject. This Blog exists to help. For the record, I am not obligated to jump through hoops or answer to any demands someone who may choose to visit my site may have.

Onward and Upward!

For Nasty-gram Senders: If you care about how you are perceived — just take your time, add a little courtesy and avoid incivility. That’s how educated adults communicate. Then, spend some time on this site and read an learn.

For Nasty-gram Recipients: It isn’t you; it’s them. Choose to not respond in the same manner. Don’t tit for tat. Be the adult in the room. Send folks who would benefit to this site.

If we all work together to educate on how to communicate online with others, those nasty folks will learn and be better for it.

One can only hope….

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
~ Helen Keller

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