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Sad Commentary: Lack of Courtesy and Civility Online

Lack of Courtesy and Civility Online

Your reading my Blog shows you care about Email Etiquette and Netiquette and are interested in “communicating with knowledge, understanding and courtesy.” That’s my tagline — but maybe I should add 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 will 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 for what communicating online is degrading to.

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

I will be selfish and vent a bit if that’s okay. However, sharing my experience may help those who trip on this article realize how formatting, words, and tone matter.

Website Inquiries: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Although the interest level regarding Email Etiquette has become more mainstream over time, there still seems to be an overall lack of courtesy from some who email me. Earlier this week, after reading the latest site “request,” it dawned on me.

Some believe I am a public servant waiting to cater to any emailer’s demands. (Or if they don’t like something, they can 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. You know what I mean if you have a blog or website. You open your inbox to find these emails that make you wonder what kind of person would type what you are reading.

Did they even read the site? Is my Search bar still there?

After all those thoughts run through my head, my next idea is they must not be happy. Why else would they communicate rudely and demandingly with someone they don’t know or have had any previous personal contact with?

I know I am an anomaly because I run many websites in different markets, demographics, and topics of interest. But that’s what gives me a comprehensive overview.

The email etiquette websites, though, including my Business Email Etiquette Blog, are the ones that get the nastiest of emails. I guess that is called irony.

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

It’s Easy to be Nice

It is not uncommon for me to get an email demanding information of interest from a site visitor. Onliners are contacting an Email Etiquette site asking Email Etiquette questions with no courtesy.

No thank you in advance, niceties, or appreciation for my time — nothing but a demand for answers. They don’t respect my time when they could have found their answer simply in the website’s search bar.

They seem to care more about their questions and want the answers served to them. Who would have thought that with all the resources online, just a couple of clicks away, we appear lazy and more ignorant than ever?

Write about this!

I get emails telling me to write about a subject. That has happened a bunch of times. No please, can you, if you don’t mind? Just do it.

And then, when I do, I email it to them. No response with a “thank you” — or “appreciate your time.”

And gosh forbid I send them to a link reflecting all the articles I’ve written on the topic they didn’t bother searching for. Crickets.

Next are emails telling me they disagree with this or that. Bold type, red type, all caps. Not in a way that adults who share opposing opinions communicate. In most cases, they are being proactively defensive about not communicating correctly and then solidifying that by their response.

The thing is, it’s just as easy to be friendly as it is to be rude. But I do not take it personally — no matter how personal the sender may try to make it.

I get a bunch of emails. 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. Instead, I look at them all as opportunities to help to give back based on my 28 years of online experience. My community service efforts.

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

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. But one thing is clear: too many folks forget that living, breathing human beings are on the other side of these screens. Or they figure that since they are not face-to-face, not only are they bolder, the formalities of being pleasant and courteous do not matter.

Well, they do matter.

If face-to-face with me, most of these emailers would probably choose their words more carefully. However, I guess what these terse and demanding folks do not realize is that those of us with free sites which 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 emails are meant to be as terse and demanding as they are perceived. In the best-case scenario, these folks don’t know better.

Worst case, they don’t care. But, unfortunately, I’ve run into many folks like that too.

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 a 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 I still enjoy doing even after almost three decades.

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

I do all this Email 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 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 — 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 and learn.

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

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

One can only hope…

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