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Didi’s Manners + Etiquette: How to Get People Off Your Back

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


The 12 best ways not to make people like you. At Didi's Manners this past week we've been answering a lot of etiquette questions about how to get friends and colleagues to not waste their time with endless emails, phone calls and texts, and how to keep contacts at a minimum.

Fending off colleagues who waste my time

Q.  How do you get people off your back? It's all about gimme-gimme, pay attention to me. When they persistently email, asking, "Let's jump on a call" or "Can we set up a meeting?" I don't know what to say without coming off as blatantly rude. Colleagues don't seem to understand that I want to keep to a minimum time-wasting in-person check-in meetings, either on the phone or in person. JL, NY, NY

A.  What a waste of time being too liked is! We spend so much energy trying to be liked that we have no time left for what matters. Getting everyone to love you can be a big nuisance! Start by asking, "Can you be specific as to what information you're looking to share and send me an email on that?"

Are you tired of being the 'best' person?  I'd like to counter with: 

The 12 ways not to make people like you

*If someone gives you the old line about the importance of building a face-to-face relationship, suggest that ahead of time they email you what they want to talk to you about. Add that you can chat at the next monthly office happy hour -- where you can also socialize with other colleagues.

*Tell the person that when it comes to raises, promotions, or success, you're not rewarded for how many emails you sent and answered, and call backs you made. 

*Suggest that the person prioritizes their time and focuses on top goals that produce long-term success.

*Tell him that you've personally found that by saving an hour or two a week by not taking calls and handling meetings, you can focus on those top goals.

*Ask if you really need to be CC'd on all his emails, and made to feel obligated to go to every meeting?

*Make it clear that you don't want colleagues stopping by your desk, or office, for a needless chatty update about a project you're working on together, because in fact his chit-chats deaden your productivity.

*What is someone really asking for when they suggest coffee, lunch or a drink after work? Is this business or are they looking for personal advice? Have the person clarify the premise of their request to meet with you. Email them saying, "I have to confirm my schedule on Friday, and I'll get back to you as soon as I know more. Let me be clear, what would you like to talk about?" Their reply will help you make the best decision as to whether or not you want to take the time to meet person-to-person. If you misread their intentions, you may feel misled.

*Don't think you can get rid of a person with a phone call. Defaulting with a phone conversation can be just as time-wasting as a meeting. Remember the person who places the call, ends the call.

*Push back by asking if you can tackle any and all logistics via email or text.

*Pushing back further to make it clear that there will be no ping-pong of emails, try using an app such as Boomeranggmail strategically to delay the arrival of your email response. Even if he's persistent, your definition of productivity may differ from his.

*Don't use his first name any more than you have to in conversation or in emails.

*Don't small talk by asking polite questions about his personal life because your intention is not to make him think you want to learn more about it.

How to say "No"

Q.  What is the kindest way to say no to a request without hurting anyone's feelings?   CD, Topeka, KA 

A.  Say that you will take his request under consideration. Remembering that a maybe usually means no, you're not leading the person on. You are gently letting both of you off the hook.

Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at Didi's Manners.


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