The longer you remain in a one job, the more you see scenarios which repeat themselves. People ask you the same questions. You make the same requests of other people. Problems occur for which you have already found solutions.
Sometimes those same questions and scenarios repeat themselves with such regularity that we feel we have been inserted into a remake of “Groundhog Day.” In that 1993 classic, Bill Murray portrays a weatherman assigned to cover the groundhog’s emergence from his hole. In a weird twist of events, the character finds himself re-living the same day again and again.
At first, the experience is an exercise in frustration, as “Phil” goes through the same routine over and over. Soon, he learns his plight offers the chance to perfect his performance in each of these daily situations. Once he gets one situation correct, he can repeat his actions the next day at that same time.
You may feel like the character Phil as you answer emails which ask the same questions. It seems like you are giving virtually the same answer for the 1,000th time, and the frustration may come through in the curtness of your response.
Another way to approach these situations is the way Bill Murray’s character came approach them. Develop a response and repeat it.
Gmail’s Canned Responses
Gmail offers a great feature called “Canned Responses.” You compose text, give it a name, and save it. The next time you want to use that text, whether in an email you are composing or in one to which you are replying, you simply select your text from a list, and Gmail inserts that text, no matter how long, into your document.
To begin, you must enable the Canned Response feature from Google Labs. Click the gear icon, located in the upper right-hand corner. Choose “Settings.” Look for the “Labs” tab and click it. Look for “Canned Responses,” enable it, and save your changes.
Our next step would be to create a canned response. Create a new email message and enter the text. Next, you want to save this message as a “Canned Response.” Click the arrow located in the lower-right corner of your message window. Look for a selection which says, “New canned Response.” Supply a name when prompted and “OK” you selection.
To use a response you have saved, while in the message, click the arrow in the lower-right corner. Look for your response in the “Insert” section. The response will be inserted wherever the cursor is located. Of course, you can edit the message as needed.
Cool-Headed Response to a Rude Email
Someone will be unhappy you and I at some point, and express it in an email. Disagreements are fine; rudeness is not. Our natural response when we are attacked is to respond in kind. When we reread our response after a good-night’s sleep, we usually wish we had not hit “Send.”
Why not compose that response right now? Think of what you would want to say before need arises, and save it as a Canned Response. Here is mine:
I’m open to hearing what you have to say and having a discussion about it, but I have a policy of ignoring people who take a malicious approach to conversation. I felt something that you said fell under this heading, and if you’d like to try again with a kinder approach, I’d be happy to have a conversation with you.
The response is short, and turns the focus from the attack on me to inappropriateness of the way I am being addressed. We teach other people how to treat us. If you like this response, feel free to create your own canned response and use it.
My Canned Responses
What are some of the Canned Responses I use? This list will give you an idea:
Newsletter Being Blocked. I send a monthly newsletter through Constant Contact and am able to see a list of subscribers who are not getting the newsletter, either because that address no longer exists, or because it is being blocked by their Internet Service Provider. My solution is to send a person email, coming from my own email address, to those people. The Canned Response explains the problem and gives them a possible solution. My email sounds like it took some time to compose. It did, at least originally. But because I saved it as a Canned Response, composing that email takes only seconds.
Contract for Upcoming Workshop. When an organization books me for a seminar or conference, I have a simple contract I send as an email attachment. This Canned Response includes the body of the email itself.
ELPP Coordinator Plan. The “ELPP” is an instrument we use in my state to gather data on the progress on students who are enrolled in special education programs during the preschool years. I have been working with our State Department of Education for a number of years on this project. When a central office administrator emailed me for suggestions on how to oversee this aspect of her responsibilities, I composed a detailed email. I figured others would find themselves needing the same help, so I saved my email as a Canned Response.
Students Not Showing Up on ELPP Website. When it comes to those “Groundhog Day” moments, this one is king. Going back to the ELPP project, the #1 question I get relates to students not appearing on the website on which the teacher scores them. The problem always relates to one of a half-dozen pieces of data which must be correct in the school system’s student information system. Whenever I get that question, the other party receives a timely, thorough, and friendly explanation of what to check. That email resonse does the trick 100% of the time. People think I spent quite a while with the response. In actuality, I spent seconds.
Workshop Inquiry. When I receive an initial inquiry about conducting professional development, I want to be ready with helpful information. This Canned Response fills the bill.