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Email, iPhones and Steve Jobs: a Cautionary Tale

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Email, iPhones and Steve Jobs: a Cautionary Tale


Before you read this post I need to ask you to participate in an experiment with me. Seriously, thus isn’t a joke. The gist of this post will make more sense it you play along. Bookmark this post, do the experiment and then, when you have finished the task, come back and read on.

Here is the experiment.

1. Next time your significant other, child or parent is really upset about something say the following to them… “Stop getting so worked up. Calm Down and Relax.”

2. Make a mental note of their response and how effective your “calming” words were.

3. Come back and read the rest of the post.

Task done? Good. So how did it go? Did telling them to calm down sooth the situation? Did they “relax”?

No? Of course not.


From the BoyGeniusReport

In fact I’m sure it was just as effective with them as it was when Steve Jobs apparently replied to an iPhone 4 user’s complaints about the device’s reception issue,

…you are getting all worked up over a few days of rumors. Calm down.

Now the entire episode is the stuff of TV drama’s… or perhaps a bad sitcom.

First there was the purported email exchange. (It can be read in its entirety here.)

Then Fortune magazine reported that when

Asked on the record whether Steve Jobs was the author of any of these statements, a top Apple spokesperson emphatically denied it.

The entire Steve Jobs email story… It’s real « Boy Genius Report.jpg

Then The Boy Genius Report shot back stating that the entire episode is true and the emails did indeed come from Jobs.

Were the emails actually from Jobs? Did Apple’s PR Department out-and-out lie? What’s really going on here? All we know at this point is that this is only going to get more interesting.

There is, however, something to be learned from this already and that is this… email is a terrific means of communication. It is convenient, it is fast and, thanks to devices like the iPhone and the Blackberry, it is with us all the time.

But email is also dangerous. The convenience of email and its ubiquity makes it far too easy to respond to people without fully thinking things through. It lets us shoot off emails that, while not meant to be terse, come off as snotty as… well as snotty as telling someone who is upset to “Calm down.”

The sad fact is, one thoughtless written email can snowball into a huge issue, and before we know it something simple can blow up in our face.

However, a few simple steps can help avoid this:

1. Don’t email when you are angry.

2. Don’t respond to someone’s angry email immediately. Think it through lest you pour gasoline on what is already a simmering fire.

3. When in doubt, remove any specific references to other people or specific events … and HAVE SOMEONE ELSE READ THROUGH IT. For while you might think the tone of the email is fine, a second set of eyes will often see what we — who are too close to it — cannot.

And finally
4. If you are the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, NEVER send an email to an irate customer without your PR Department fully vetting it.

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