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Tailored #Email Etiquette Advice – Useful or Unsettling?

Auto-Empathy

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One of the biggest drawbacks of a world so rooted in typed communication is how difficult it can often be to convey tone. Vocally, I’m a pretty sarcastic person, it works for me, but it can be tricky to get across in emails or online chat. Exclamation points can be difficult, too, often when you use one you are spinning a kind of social wheel of chance which could just as easily land on ‘patronising’ or ‘facetious’ as it could on ‘friendly’, it’s a total minefield! There, see what I mean?

If this is an issue that you contend with, especially in a work capacity, then Crystal might be the ideal online tool for you. Simply by registering via your LinkedIn account, you can create a profile and then whenever you want to drop someone an email, Crystal will sift through reams of online data before giving you some advice on exactly how to word the email to maximize appeal to that particular person.

When I tested out the service, asking it to help me out with an email to one of my colleagues, Crystal told me that I needed to use an informal opener like ‘hey’ and that the best call to action to use would be ‘how do you feel about…’. It explained that the colleague in question was “forward-thinking, and isn't concerned as much about stability or social proof to make a decision if it means he is on the cutting edge.”

crystalknows.com

Things got even creepier when I tried to send an email to myself. Crystal’s impression of Callum Davies “prefers to communicate with some formality in new relationships, but quickly warms up to people, so be sure to write thoughtful, expressive sentences and stay very positive.” She went on to comment that apparently I’m “extremely relationship-focused, so if you try to create a genuine personal connection, [I] will kindly reciprocate.” Further advice revealed that I would respond well to mentions of mutual connections and interests, suggesting phrases like “just thinking out loud” and “let’s chat”.


I have no doubt that proper phrasing and approach is paramount to sending the most effective email for getting someone’s attention, especially if you want something from the other person, but I’m not certain just how effective an algorithm based tool like this can really be. When you really scratch the surface, Crystal isn’t all that different from the myriad personality quizzes you can take online which also access your social media data, just more invasive. That being said, it provides an interesting impression of how online communication might be better served by analytic tools in the future.

The danger, if this kind of thing takes off, is that you'll end up in a world where people are following a set of pre-determined emotive guidelines pretty much all the time. You won't be talking to a real person, just a kind of fabricated proxy. How this would affect business communication I don't know, but on a personal level it gives me the heebie-jeebies. 

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Tailored #Email Etiquette Advice – Useful or Unsettling? Reviewed by Callum Davies on Saturday, May 23, 2015 Rating: 5

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