But... I sent it! Perils of depending on e-mails

Just because you sent an email doesn’t mean the recipient got it – let alone read it

David Rigby

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Last week a Texas eighth grader was suspended for rescuing a classmate during an asthma attack. Why? Because he had watched for an eternity as his classmate was having an asthma attack and the teacher had refused to let anyone leave the classroom. The teacher had emailed the nurse – end of her responsibility!!!! When the sick girl collapsed on the floor the fifteen year old dragged her to the sick bay disregarding the teacher’s orders saying ‘we ain’t got time to wait for no email from the nurse’. And that’s why he was suspended.

This is an absolutely classic and potentially dangerous misuse of communication technology.

When I was in Ghana recently I was waiting for a fellow trainer to arrive so that we go out to dinner with a client and all my delegates. They were also waiting and starving to death. We sat and waited and waited and no sign of the other trainer.

Eventually I wandered around the hotel and there he was conducting another meeting. “But I sent the client a message on Facebook” he protested. I just sat and glared at him until he stopped that meeting out of embarrassment. The point was that he demonstrated no respect for us who were waiting, and he had made the classic assumption that anyone who is under 30 is ‘fobbing’ – that is always attached to their phone like an umbilical cord responding to its every whimper. (This is the 2016 meaning of fobbing apparently).

Maybe the nurse was healing the sick or raising the dead – rather than looking at her emails! Maybe my client was practicing Mindfulness. Paying attention to those she was with to exclusion of all else. That is a little of what mindfulness is about.

When teaching mindfulness and effective time management we teach people to look at emails, texts and other messages at periodic intervals and not to react like Pavlov’s dogs the second the device vibrates or pings. We even try to insist that the delegates turn off their phones. “It might be an important client!” If you are with an important client, that client would expect you to pay full attention to them and not answer the phone.

And so should be capable of recognizing that it is a reciprocal arrangement and not expect an instant response when you are with another client or in a meeting.

I am personally fed up with the ‘but I sent you an email to cancel’ as an excuse for not turning up – and you are sitting waiting.

• Just because you sent an email doesn’t mean the recipient got it – let alone read it
• Even a delivery receipt and read receipt doesn’t mean they have read it. If they reply they might have read but not understood.
• Sending a text, or a message on Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype, Viber, Tango, Twitter or even a letter bears the same risk. As does sending a courier and getting a random signature receipt.

After all you wouldn’t text for an ambulance, the fire brigade or police – so try speaking to someone – it’s the only way to be certain.