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Please tell me how you'd like me to talk to you

A friend in Dubai recently e-mailed me with the subject line: "a note about the e-mail I owe you."

In the message, which she sent to practically everyone she knows, she said she needed to own up to how bad she is at returning e-mails.

I e-mailed her to say Bravo! and asked what was the response from our other friends. She said it felt great to have the in-box albatross off her neck -- and this was her way of not just reaching out, but also getting more organized.

When there are a variety of ways to communicate with people -- text, instant messages, Twitter, etc. -- shouldn't it also be a part of netiquette to learn what form of communication people prefer?

EcardEmail In other words, if a person hates voice mail, don't use it. If someone only wants to be contacted via e-mail, respect that.

In the case of my Dubai friend, she's not bad at communicating: she uses Facebook daily, chats with people via Skype and Google instant messaging, and still uses old-school devices like the phone and even writes actual letters. What I thought was great was that she articulated all of her communication preferences to her friends.

I think this is even more important in professional situations, because it gives you a chance to distinguish yourself. Everyone's got the e-mail signature that lists the variety of ways they can be contacted (Follow me on Twitter! Read my Blog!).

But I think in the rush to be available to everyone on all platforms, we've failed to indicate the way we prefer to be contacted.

This goes both ways: It's not just about asking people how they would like to communicate, but also about making your own preferences clear.

Anyone who has ever called my work phone knows that for years, my voice mail has contained a message asking public relations professionals to e-mail me (if they don't have it, I spell out my e-mail address.)

There are a few reasons, but mostly, it's because I like to store things via e-mail so I can go back -- even if months later, to retrieve what was sent. I'm not opposed to picking up the phone: sometimes, that's the fastest and most efficient way to communicate. It just seems, though, like SUCH a waste of time to retrieve voice mails when it's just easier to have that email as a record. (And for those who ask, no, the Herald doesn't have any type of automatic transcriptions of voice mails, or then I wouldn't be so picky about this.)

And that's my point, as well. It's not just about courtesy, it's about efficiency. These days, couldn't we all use a bit more of both?

What's your preference, or pet peeve on this matter? Weigh in below, please:


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I hate hate HATE voicemail. I won't even set it up on my phones because I refuse to check it.

This is something we've actually been teaching PR students for years -- find out how the public prefers to receive its communication and learn how best to have two-way communication.

I tell all my students my communications preferences and yet many don't listen or are bothered by my preferences.

Interestingly, I'm with Ashley on this. I detest voice mail, check email constantly, skim Twitter at least once a day, and visit Facebook about once-a-month.

Interestingly, I have different preferences depending on the person. For business with people outside my company, I prefer email. With coworkers, I like instant messenger for immediacy, but also email, and yes, even the phone! When it comes to family, SMS is king, but we catch up on the phone as well.

Of course, there is a downside to this. It's hard to keep up with information coming at me from a million directions - which explains my fits and starts on other places like Facebook and Twitter.

Also, having a work email and a personal email complicates matters. In a nutshell, if someone is looking for the quickest response from me, my work email or SMS is best!

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