What Is The Subject?

I was reading a blog article the other day, and I really wish I could remember which one it was or locate it again, on the subject of subjects. Basically it boiled down to this – most people decide based on the subject alone whether to open your email and read it. So why do you spend 99% of your time and effort constructing a well formed message only to slap a nondescript subject on it. Or worse yet, people send out emails with no subject at all!

Well, I more than totally agree, but the blog also got me thinking about other areas of our lives. Very often I see managers or executives at work spend hours working out what they want to say to their employees only to blow it by the way in which the call the meeting or maybe even the time.

If you tell someone on Friday afternoon that you want to meet with them first thing Monday morning, what is going to happen? With nothing else to go on, since you didn’t tell them the goal of the meeting, you have left them with no alternative than to anticipate the worst and dwell on it all weekend. After that, they will walk into that Monday morning meeting defensive, upset, and with a load of baggage that you did not anticipate when planning the meeting nor are you really prepared to deal with.

Same thing happens when you send that email or voice mail that just says, “come see me.” I can tell you that when I get those there is no way that I think anything good is coming of it. Scenerios start running through the brain, defenses go up, escape routes and excuses start to be formed – and all about a myriad of things that have absolutely nothing to do with why the summons was issued. What is so hard about saying, “can you come see me about starting a new training program” instead of the blunt, controlling, uninformative “come see me?” A slim few more words and one more second of speaking time but ultimately more productive and less alarming.

This goes not only at work but at home and in social settings. When a kid is out playing and needs to come in, there is a big difference between just yelling their name and yelling there name with the message after it. Yell, “Tommy!” and you will either be greeted by silence as Tommy avoids you or “What? What did I do?” as the defenses go up. Yell, “Tommy, supper time!” and most often you will see a smiling face running towards you.

So remember, many times the message is all in the subject line.

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