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Having the same conversation

This morning I was reading a blog post about the failure of the congressional super committee. The author commented

parties can’t reach an agreement if they’re not even having the same conversation.

I realized this is just as true in email as it is in politics. All too often we’re not having the same conversation. Look at the comments thread on my spamtraps post. Steve Henderson and I weren’t having the same conversation. He believes spam is illegal and that identifying email as spam is the same as calling the sender a criminal. I don’t think spam is illegal and am not making any comments about the legal status of the sender.
This is one recent example, but it’s not an unique occurrence. Failing to have the same conversation is rampant in the email space. One of the more obvious situations where this happens is when dealing with blocks.
The blocked sender tells the blocking recipient, “We don’t send spam! Remove the block, please!” The sender thinks this is the relevant bit of information and that all they need to do is assert that they aren’t intentionally sending spam.
The blocking recipient looks at their systems, they look at their customer data, they look at the patter of email and say, “We can’t remove this block.” The receiver thinks this is the relevant bit of information. They work on data, not intentions.
I frequently describe my job as translating from sender to receiver. I sit in the middle of the conversation and make sure both sides are having the same conversation.
In politics and in email delivery, the only way things get done is when both sides have the same conversation. Understanding the goals and perspectives of the “the other side” is critical to getting what you want.

2 comments

  1. Catherine Jefferson says

    Let’s send Laura to Washington! 😉
    I’ve had a few conversations like that myself. When I post on the MainSleaze blog about spam sent by some company, I’m usually saying, “Somebody made a mistake. Please fix it.” They hear, “You’re a filthy, dirty, spamming scumball.” That’s a chasm that can be hard to bridge. :/

  2. laura says

    I came from Washington (seriously, I was born at Washington Hospital Center). I would prefer not to go back, thankyouverymuch.
    Being understanding helps. Unfortunately, I think the mainsleaze blog starts off on the wrong foot because of the name It’s not “helping you not spam” or something more forgiving, the whole URL says “you’re a dirty sleazeball”. The name / URL sets a tone, and possibly not the one you intended to set.

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