Saturday, April 19, 2008

Be careful what you write...

Is there such a thing as email etiquette? You know, the kind of guidebook about email that Emily Post used to write about getting along in the world? If so, I haven't seen one, but I am frequently reminded that there sure is a need for such a thing.

How often, in a business or personal situation, have you started to fire off an angry email in a fit of annoyance or exasperation, only to stop yourself at the last second? Or, worse, how often have you hit SEND, only to regret it the next second?

That's the thing about email. It's quick and all-too-easy to react impulsively, not choosing our words with care. And as if that alone wouldn't be bad enough, an email doesn't come with an image of the sender or his or her tone of voice. Next thing you know that quick response has been misinterpreted, taken as a serious or biting comment, rather than the witty little joke you meant to make. And someone's feelings are hurt. Or there's a rift in a friendship or business relationship.

I've certainly received my share of emails from strangers, family or friends that imply a negative tone that may not be intended at all. Sometimes I'm tempted to fire back an equally snippy comment. Sometimes I've even done just that, only to find out the person who sent the original email never intended the message I received.

So, here's something to consider, even in the most casual email exchanges...and even more importantly in the professional ones. Take a second look at what you've written -- unless it's as simple as suggesting a time for lunch, for example -- and be sure there's no way the recipient can misinterpret your words. If you mean your email to be biting, will you have reason to regret it an hour from now? Or even two minutes from now?

If the subject is serious, something that could affect a relationship, wait to respond, rather than replying in the heat of the moment. I sometimes write scathing emails, then go back and take out all the incendiary language. That gives me the satisfaction, without the repercussions.

If you've ever fired off a quick email and had cause to regret it, tell us about that. Of if you've ever received one that hurt your feelings -- intentionally or not -- tell us how you handled that. Did you pick up the phone? Fire off an angry email in response?

I'm curious about the impact all this may be having on civility and any experiences you'd care to share. Either click on "comments" below or send me an email at

Sherryl Woods


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Getting inventive about getting around

Just last week one of my best friends from college came for a visit. We make it a point to try to get together at her home in Colorado, mine in Florida or in Virginia at least once a year. One of the first things we do is make a list of all the things we want to do during the visit, all the restaurants that have become favorites.

This year at the top of her agenda was spending a day at the Sony Ericcson tennis tournament, something we hadn't done for several years at least in part because my gimpy knee makes getting around the tennis complex, up and down stairs and even from the parking lot a real nuisance. However, as someone who once loved to play tennis and even played competitively on a neighborhood team -- yes, me! -- I really wanted to go. So, I got inventive.

I called the ticket office and asked about a zillion questions of a poor, clueless guy who kept trying to seat me in the upper deck, but handily near an elevator. I finally gave up, went on the site map and figured out which row was at the top of the section I wanted, meaning no stairs to climb once I was inside the stadium. Two seats in that section also netted me a parking pass right across the street from the stadium. And, as a bonus, a pass to a special hospitality suite. When I was unable to make the reservation online, I went back to poor, clueless guy and gave him the information about exactly which seats I wanted.

It turned out to be one of the best things I've done in years. The walk from the parking lot was a breeze. My knee even cooperated for a walk around the gorgeous grounds and allowed me to hike up one set of stairs to my seating level. By then I'd spotted an elevator and made the next trip up in that. In between we saw a men's doubles match won by the tournament's eventual finalists, a match by the tournament's eventual winner, Serena Williams, and part of a match by the eventual men's winner, Nikoly Davedenko. The only thing I screwed up was not realizing that if I'd had the exact same row on the opposite side of the stadium we would have been in the shade, rather than the scorching heat. Next year!

This isn't the first time I've made phone calls to determine the best seats for an event. I know exactly which row is best for me at the Florida Marlins spring training site in Jupiter. I've figured out which seats work best in which theaters in New York and which theaters are within walking distance for me from my hotel.

I'm bringing all this up because it made me wonder how many of us stop doing things we love when we conclude that it's inconvenient or physically difficult. I know I've done that more often than I should. Going to the tennis match reminded me yet again that there are ways to keep up with the things we enjoy. They sometimes require a little ingenuity, but they are possible.

So, don't put aside your passions when you think they're beyond you. Maybe it's true, but maybe it's not. Maybe it's just a matter of looking at the seating plan, making a phone call, asking the right questions. I hope I always remember this lesson, because my life will be richer for it. So will yours.

If you have a topic you'd like to discuss here, among friends, be sure to drop me a note at If you'd like to write a guest blog about something on your mind, drop me a note about that as well.

Sherryl Woods
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