Polite vs. Quick

Tyler Mercer wrote in with some interesting thoughts which I asked if I could plop here and he agreed.

I was reminded of this blurb from Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin today. It’s from the chapter “It’s Hard to Make Things Easier”:

I decided to apply [the strategy of] convenience to my email habits. I read that office workers spend a staggering 28% of their office time on email, but I bet I spend more time than that. To make my email habit more convenient, I decided to cut out salutations and closings. […] An email that says, “Hi, Peter, Thanks so much for the link! I’m off to read the article right now! Warmly, Gretchen” takes a lot more work than an email that says, “Thanks! Off to read the article right now!” The first version is more formal and polite, but the second version conveys the same tone and information and is much quicker to write.

It took a surprising amount of discipline to change my response habits. It can be hard to make things easier. I had to push myself to erase the “Hi” and to hit send without typing a closing. But before long, it became automatic.

She then explains how one of her readers expressed surprise at this and implied that she didn’t sound very friendly. But she stuck to it:

I was sorry if I didn’t sound friendly to her, but I wanted to be able to answer emails from readers, and to keep up, I needed to make this work as convenient as possible. My habits had to reflect my values. I wrote her back, very nicely—and without a salutation or closing—to explain.

I can relate to that—I’ve put in a fair bit of work to make writing on my blog more convenient for the same reason (and I still don’t write as much as I would like).

In Gretchen’s two examples, I actually find the second version the more friendly version. The first perhaps is more polite, but it feels a little fake. Like if I got that email from Gretchen, I know she’s not feeling warmly about me, that’s just a fake little meaningless add-on. The chill informality of the second, where you just type what you mean almost like we’re texting, that one feels real and authentic.

And heck, if that actually adds up to saving real time and making email more managable, bonus.

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