My Dispute with Angus

September 9th, 2008 by Bob Bly

A few minutes ago I got an e-mail from Angus, one of my e-zine subscribers, who objected to the frequency with which I send e-mail marketing messages to him.

“I don’t mind getting your offers, but you are sending too f@#$%ing many,” said Andre (using the F-word).

I replied, “There is no need to use abusive language with me” and told him I would unsubscribe him immediately.

He replied that I was coming off to him as “rude” and “thin-skinned.”

Folks, I think we have entered the Twilight Zone here.

This guy e-mails me an e-mail with an obscenity … but it’s ME, not him, who’s rude?

Anybody see a disconnect here?

There are many things I love about the Internet.

But one thing I dislike is how the anonymity of e-mail emboldens some folks to lose all inhibition, and say anything they please — things they would never dream of saying face to face unless they were looking to start an altercation.

Am I right saying that Angus, not me, is the rude one here?

Or am I so out of touch that Netiquette today says it’s fine to use profanities when e-mailing strangers?

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 9th, 2008 at 12:58 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

20 responses about “My Dispute with Angus”

  1. Ryan said:

    I think the high road is the better approach. As for being rude, yes he was. To call attention to it – we must learn to ignore it and set an example. Just as in real life.

  2. Bob Bly said:

    I think we should not be rude in return. Nor should we ignore it. We should not permit people to treat us shabbily. If Angus wouldn’t speak to his mother this way, he shouldn’t speak to me that way, either.

  3. Peter Davis said:

    It’s a waste of time to give any attention to people like that. Just blacklist him from your newsletter and move on. Engaging the trolls only encourages them.

  4. Ken Norkin - freelance copywriter said:

    Angus is vocabularly challenged. He apparently does not know what constitutes rudeness or being thin-skinned. Plus, he doesn’t understand that if someone uses profanity in what should be polite business correspondence, it is not rude to politely call that person on it.

    You’re clearly in the right. But there’s no need to dwell on it.

    As a cleaned up version of one of my wife’s favorite sayings puts it: for you, he only ruined one day, but he’ll be an idiot the rest of his life.

  5. DM Wrecker said:

    Ignore the guy’s language, but…the most important learning I guess is how often are you emailing your list then? How much is too much?

  6. Lynne said:

    I’m with you, Bob. Beats me how someone can invade your in-box with the F word and then complain that you are thin-skinned.

    With his clueless attitude, I don’t think Angus would benefit from your products anyway.

  7. Stacey said:

    Bob, you’re right; he was rude. And cursing like that is unprofessional. I hope for his colleagues’ and clients’ sakes, he doesn’t routinely conduct business like that.

  8. Ken said:

    The perception of “rudeness” is varied and will change depending on a person’s upbringing, beliefs, etc…so yes, you are right and yes, he is right.

  9. Michael A. Stelzner said:

    Bob;

    The downside to having a lot of subscribers is…

    A lot of opinions.

    Mike

  10. Bob Bly said:

    Michael: Of course, that’s also the upside….

    Ken: I disagree that it is a matter of perception. If you think it is OK to use the F-word with a merchant or service provider because you have a complaint, I would say your thinking is in conflict with the accepted norms of behavior in our society.

  11. dianacacy said:

    I say you’re right, Bob. My husband is an IT department professional working for a company who doesn’t follow some of the “rules”. We aren’t originally from here. It drives him insane to see a CEO, or anyone lower in management even, making a sexist or racist remark or using profanity in the workplace. (Yes, they do get called on it and then things get really interesting. *grin* )

    Contacting a business person by internet is no different.

    But I’ve met some of those people face to face, and I believe the best you can do is be yourself and ignore their outburst. Unfortunately, it’s also correct that with some you eventually just have to ignore them or blacklist them, as in this case. Because they otherwise won’t stop.

    Fiction writers get it all the time. One I know of – Holly Lisle – has many fiction books out. She’s made her living writing fiction for years, and her way of “paying it forward” is to use her talents to teach others to do the same thing. She often gets some very not-so-nice emails about how she dares to pretend that she’s qualified to teach others and charge for her products. If she’s not qualified in this area, then no one is.

    By the way, I love your emails. How else will I know what’s out there on my busy schedule? My favorite of the latest is “Who is the Greatest Copywriter?” That one I had to make a physical copy of to make sure I had the information.

  12. Bob Bly said:

    Dina: David Halbestram wrote words to the effect that we live in a “coarser, cruder” society. Long range, I believe the implications are severely destructive, leading first to verbal disrespect and abuse, and then to behavioral and physical.

  13. Brad Mirtes said:

    Bob,
    First things first. I have read a lot of your material and it’s fantastic, all of it. The last thing you should do is take the comments from Angus personally.

    Using profanity is always unprofessional and should never be acceptable behavior. However,
    Bob when you look behind Angus’ vale of profanity you’ll find someone who is very frustrated with some thing.

    At this point you have two options.

    #1. Tell him to walk west till his hat floats.
    #2. Email him and ask him: “Is it my emails that bother you or are you frustrated about some thing else?

    Bob, if you can find a way to help him you will be remembered as someone who was more that just a great copywriter.

  14. dianacacy said:

    Bob, I agree. When people do not watch what comes out of their mouth, it can lead to (or be a sign of) an inability to regulate themselves in other aspects of life. These individuals often are stuck in situations where they are unhappy and using the language in anger, defensiveness, or resentment. When we give in to not controlling our tongues, we also risk not having the fortitude to grow in other ways.

    I’ve also seen and been around people who use the f-word and use blasphemy because it is normal speech to them. Most of these people are not business people, but those raised in the more working environments where there is less emphasis on things like being politically correct and mindful of everyone’s particular sensitivities. (or some isolated environments too) As with all groups of people, some were useless and others would happily give you everything they own if you asked.

    If this Angus is going to deal with people on the internet, he needs to refrain from that language. And, if he’s using it and is that defensive about it, I get the feeling that he wouldn’t listen to your emails anyway. Not in your target audience area.

    And I thought your reply wasn’t rude at all. He obviously doesn’t like someone being honest with him when it points out a flaw that he has. A confident individual who’s honest with himself and working to better his life would have apologized and made an effort to not make the same mistake again, rather than going on the defensive.

    Brad’s right … not much that can be done about it unless you see something worth going that extra mile or two more to help this individual with.

  15. Fiona Fell - The Profit Maximising Web Geek said:

    I belive that using obsenities is inappropriate in all instances. Including all business communication.

    Bob you are not out of touch with modern Nettiquette, but I think Angus and many others could use a few more words in their vocabulary to assist with communicating effectively.

    In this instant the ‘F word’ could be removed from teeh sentence and it still hold true to his thoughts.

    Obsenities add nothing to your communication, and nothing to your personal character.

    Fiona Fell
    The Profit Maximising Web Geek

  16. Bob Bly said:

    Fiona, I agree with you 100%. I am frankly amazed some people actually think this is a debatable issue, and that using obscenities is permissible in some business situations.

  17. Edward Weiss said:

    You’re right about the anonymity thing. It makes otherwise smart and prudent people into rude and insulting cretins.

    That’s why I love the delete button as well.

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