Monday, December 7, 2009

Network not netjerk

I just got an email from a guy I knew years ago. I have had zero contact with this person in more than two years and possibly as much as six. And even when we had contact, we were not close. We socialized a handful of times a year and he was friends with my brother in law. Between the time I last had contact with him and now, I have been in the process of getting divorced. It's been nearly two years since that process started. And not a peep from this guy. Well, that's OK. We weren't close anyway.

But now he sends me an email. The subject line of his email is: "q for u".

And the text of his email is:
"Hi Adam,

I’ve got a q for you that is possibly business-related, or maybe you’ll have some advice - when is a good time to talk, and what is your number?


Note how unfriendly he is. Note how he does not acknowledge that we have not been in contact for years. Note how he has no comment on the fact that I'm getting divorced. And note how he simply assumes I will give him my time.

Well, my inclination is to help. That's a natural human inclination. But this is just bad behavior. And I'm not going to reward bad behavior. The polite thing for him to do would have been to say a proper hello, acknowledge my life circumstances in some way and ask if he could get a few minutes of my time.

I was going to simply ignore his email but why should I be the guy that ignores emails? Instead, I sent him the following email which is a bit testy but I think he deserved it:
"No "Hi, how are you? It's been a few years and I hope things are well for you." No "Hey, I hear you've been going through a divorce. I hope you're doing well."


Do you typically find that method of networking to be effective? If so, I recommend you send your question to those people with whom that approach works. I generally prefer a bit of humanity with my networking."

And just a few minutes later he responded with:
"Sorry, u r right - jerky of me. Am using a pda and just went quickly. Lesson learned."

Yes, it was jerky of him. It just didn't meet the basic standards of human decency. Now could a good friend send me an email like that? Absolutely! That good friend would have built a reservoir of good will with me. I would know that he or she would be there for me. They would know I'm there for them. That's a big part of what friendship is. But if you're not a good friend then you have to be a bit more polite. Be human.

If you walked through my front door, how would you act? Would you just barge in and start demanding things? Or would you announce yourself, be nice and then make your request only after having (re) established the relational right to do so? Look. I may not be able to call the cops on you for spamming me the way I can if you walk into my home without permission. But just because you can send me an email and just because it is legal to send me an email does not mean it is wise to send me an email. And if you're going to send one, think about what you should say. Yes, it is very easy to hit send. But it is just as easy for me to hit delete.

Can this guy repair things with me? Probably. But now it will take more effort than had he simply taken an extra minute to be friendly. Now instead of just overcoming years of a dormant relationship, he has to overcome years of that dormancy plus today's jerkiness.

Do you think it was worth it for him?


Irapiranga said...

I think I would have responded in the same cold manner. "No problem. My consultancy fee is $750 for the first hour"

Adam said...

Excellent! I really do try and help people who need my help. I'm very giving of my time. But you've got to be human. Have just a bit of decency rather than barging into my life and demanding.