Monday, May 25, 2015

Selective Responding in E-mail - A Guide For the Horrible Person

Selective Responding:
Picking and Choosing Your Battles within E-mail

Lessons from the forthcoming satirical book “Huh? The Joys, Sorrows and Comic Relief of Miscommunication.”

When approaching the very common courtesy of miscommunicating with family, friends and foes, there exists the wonderfully limiting tool of e-mail and the practice of “selective responding,” an effective, defective, infectious and purely selfish practice we will present in this lesson.

There is so much to miscommunicate within e-mail, it’s hard to know where to begin. Within electronic mail (or e-mail) – through the likes of Yahoo, Gmail and AOL – there is a small window to express so much. There is the limitation of the necessary 3rd grade level vocabulary that is supposed to match another’s 3rd grade vocabulary. (How many of us shared the SAME 3rd grade?) There is also the opportunity to misfire messages since no one can really determine the emotion with which you are delivering the wordy message. Even with emoticons of smiley faces, sad faces, dancing faces and barfing faces, the message isn’t 100 percent decipherable even for the most prolific of e-mailers.

And for the most potent avenue of e-mail miscommunication we have the method of “selective responding.” Yikes.

In this technique, the person replying to an e-mail (if they indeed grant you the time and decency) can selectively choose which part of the e-mail deserves a response. Normally humans – watching out for numero uno – will select only those portions of the e-mail that serve their needs. It happens all the time, and it is a testament to how much they really do not care about others. So you are not left out of the selfish route of "selective responding," here are the steps to take for this practice:
  1. Take to heart the belief that you can indeed exist beyond accountability.
  2. When you receive an e-mail message, consider an internal checklist: "Yes or no, does this serve ME?"
  3. If yes, reply with to the e-mail with a response favoring you and your needs.
  4. If no, ignore the e-mail and delete into both levels of "Trash."
  5. For those e-mails with a variety of sentiments, simply pick out the only part of the message that can help you only, and ignore the rest ... even when a message comes from those people you claim to care about.
  6. Use some flowery words in there to smokescreen the fact you aren’t answering the questions that help out your friend. 
  7. To avoid any guilty feelings, do NOT picture your friend on the other side of the e-mail frustrated or inconvenienced. 
  8. Hope, with finger's crossed, that your friend's low self-esteem precludes them from pursuing the matter further. 
  9. Maintain a belief they got the message of the non-message. 
  10. If you have the unfortunate circumstance of bumping into the friend in person, and they ask, "Did you get my e-mail," simply resort to "Huh?"   

The practice is disgusting, it's commonplace, and it completely works! Try it.

For those of you who want to not be the victim of “selective responding,” you do have an option. Draft an e-mail in which two messages are included: one that your friend would totally want to reply to for their own sake, and one your friend would want to avoid. Example: “Dear Joe, I got the phone number of that hot chick who wants to meet you, and by the way, what time can I come over to show the home’s decision-maker my MLM product?”

Even if they don’t reply at all, it’s fun to imagine them on the other side reading it and going back and forth – hands on keyboards, hands off, hands on, hands off...

James Anthony Ellis is a writer and producer living in San Diego, California. He can be reached at, where he promises to reply.

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