We all complain about too much email. We just can’t find the time to get to it all. Too many emails, too much to read through. We already have too much to do.
Inbox Zero. GTD. Three sentences. Email bankruptcy. We keep telling each other that email is stress, it’s a necessary evil, it is the worst part of our workday, it needs to be tamed, it needs to be ignored.
But it’s not “email,” this mythical creature we have created as our enemy; it’s people. Email is people.
An email does not send itself. It is sent by another human being. Whether an individual person hit send, or whether they set up an automated service, it represents the same thing. It is one person making contact with another person. It is simply the chosen method of communication. In our vilification of the method, we have lost the message.
Email is people. Needs and wants, questions and advice, aspirations and inspiration. That’s what we’re putting off, avoiding, not making time for, bitching about. People who want to connect with us — we are rejecting them.
I’m guilty of it as much as anyone else, if not more. Here I am talking about empathy, day in and day out, continuing to ignore my emails. Ignoring my fellow human beings, people who want to forge or desperately maintain a connection with me. People for whom my silence is waiting, wondering, irritation, aggravation, inconvenience, rejection, confusion, lost opportunity, added work, a denial, a sign. Yet I continue to not respond.
Sometimes I happen to be looking at my email when someone emails me and I reply right away. We’re connected in that brief moment, that immediate exchange, and we are able to affect one another. The information is shared, the commitment is confirmed, the plans are made, the issue is settled, and we can both move on — better, clearer, sure. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. But now we know. We know. We exchanged and engaged. One person reached out to another person, and was met.
So as of today, I want to stop the email slander. Instead I want to recognize it for what it is: the people who make up my life. Best friends, strangers, colleagues, role models, mentees, prospects. Even the bills, even the mailing lists, even the surveys! There are human beings behind every one of them. Regardless of intention, regardless of quality, regardless of relevance — there they are, right in front of me.
So let’s embrace email. Let’s embrace each other. And respond.