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July 13, 2008

'With email, the greatest power you have is in not replying' — Susie Boyt


The observation in the headline, which appears toward the end of her column in this weekend's Financial Times about her policy of not giving advice, stopped me in my tracks.

Yes, she is right, but there is a catch: it's exceedingly difficult not to reply, sometimes nearly impossible.

Because by not replying you have to imagine what the other party is thinking and no matter how well you think you know someone you can never be sure.

Meanwhile the sender of the email to which you don't reply waits and stews and frets, wondering if they've offended you or somehow said the wrong thing.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, whom I'd bet Ms. Boyt has never heard of, was nearly a half-century ahead of his time when he wrote, in his once very popular 1960 book, "Psychocybernetics," "The best response is no response."

Nice, eh?

July 13, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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Either way, you piss people off.

I give advice when I can, but if I can't I can't. If it is about a subject I consult on, I tell people that I cannot respond via private message or email -- to use my forums -- and if I have time I'll respond.

I will say, not responding at all make *YOU* feel better. Responding means that nine times out of ten you will probably get a nasty email back telling you that you are not that important, which begs the question as to why they asked in the first time, or demanding that even though you already offer a free service that they need more...to which I quote my going rate and how to set up the payment before contacting me back.

So, either way, someone gets upset. Do you want to encourage future behavior or set bounds. It really depends on your relationship with the person -- if you aren't likely to have future contact, don't respond. If you are, respond.

(BTW -- I ignore this rule for friends of mine...which gets sticky as to whom I consider friends!)

Posted by: clifyt | Jul 13, 2008 11:04:02 PM

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