Here are seven such habits I continue to observe that, with just a little extra awareness and effort, could be--no, should be--made obsolete:
1. Addressing multiple people in an email request that can be answered by just one person.
Ever get an email addressed to you like this? "Dear Person A, Person B, Person C". The sender assumes one of you knows the answer to the question or has a solution to the problem they raise in the email. Since it's easy to type two, three, or more names, why not carpet bomb them all at the same time and save the trouble of trying to find out who is best placed to actually help?
Sure, there are instances where you want to share information with several people simultaneously. But that's sharing information. When you want to solicit someone's help, asking three or more people at the same time--and in the same email--sends the message that you don't really know who you should send the email to.
2. Sending the same email request separately to multiple people without telling the others.
I've seen too many aggressive salespeople (or others who are trying to secure time and attention from me or my colleagues) over the years make the same exact pitch to multiple people from the same company, but without copying the others on their email. It's a numbers game, right? Just blast as many emails as you can and eventually you'll get a positive reply, right?
No, that's not how it works.
3. Copying other people in a reply to your email when your email was clearly intended just for one (or a few) people.
I sent an email to you asking you for your opinion or advice on a matter that is relevant to you. So why did you bring in someone else or even multiple people into the email thread? It's like I'm at a cocktail party having a one-on-one conversation about a private matter and then you suddenly invite two more friends to answer the question I had just posed to you in confidence. That's how it feels when you add others in your reply to the email I had only addressed to you.
4. Demanding someone do something or reply to you "ASAP".
There are a couple of problems with the use of "ASAP", the most obvious of which is that it makes you look like a drill sergeant barking a command to a soldier in boot camp training. Doesn't exactly leave a warm and fuzzy, let's-work-as-a-team feeling, does it?
And anything written in all capital letters looks (and even sounds) like you're shouting.
5. Asking for a favor in the very first email.
"Hello, I found you on the internet (or on LinkedIn) and thought since you're probably not very busy, and you have never heard of me before, and therefore have no basis for trusting me yet, that you could help me find a job at your company, or introduce me to some of the folks in that valuable professional and personal network you've spent years to establish."
Of course, nobody ever phrases their message in exactly these words when they cold call you in an email or through LinkedIn. But that's precisely the message they convey when they ask for something in the very first email they send.
6. Asking for someone's time without being clear about the objective (or what's in it for the other person).
"Can I pick your brain?" "Can we setup a quick call on Skype?" "Could we meet for coffee?"
Sound familiar? I'll bet you get asked these questions too. I enjoy helping others, and I can be generous with my time without expecting anything in return. But my job and family obligations keep me busy, so please understand and forgive me if I can't be as helpful as you would like.
7. Baiting and switching.
Recently, someone reached out to me to arrange a phone conference. I gladly accepted, as it happened to be someone whose work in the social sector I was studying just the day before. I looked forward to having the opportunity to speak to her for the first time, to ask her about her work, and to discuss ways I could be of help to her.
After sending my enthusiastic reply, instead of getting a return message from the woman who had originally reached out, one of her colleagues responded and indicated that I would be speaking with her. With all due respect to the woman's colleague, who I nonetheless look forward to speaking with and getting to know, I couldn't help but feel like I had received the "bait and switch" treatment.