The other day a consultant told me that he felt bad about someone unsubscribing from his monthly e-newsletter. Sure, people unsubscribe all the time. Why did this simple unsubscribe gesture upset him?
Because the person who unsubscribed was one of his favorite mentors.
How could this mentor, of all people, unsubscribe from his newsletter? Did the newsletter not share valuable, timely information and ideas? The consultant felt hurt, disappointed, and puzzled.
In a similar situation, a teenager told me one of her close friends was angry with her because she had stopped following him on Twitter. He wondered how she could shut him down like that and still be his friend. But the young woman confided to me, "Why should I follow him when I talk to him every day? Anyway, he constantly tweets about sports."
You might say the consultant and the young man were too sensitive, and you might be right. But I'll take the other side: Perhaps the mentor and the young woman were insensitive. They did not think about how turning off the communication might hurt someone who valued their relationship.
It's all about recognizing when something is bad news to the other person–and then communicating thoughtfully.
Whenever you worry that someone will feel bad about an action you will take or a decision you have made, pay attention to that small voice. It's an important signal. Then decide how you will communicate about the potential bad news if you care about the other person and your relationship.
Below are two examples of what you might write in the unsubscribe situation to avoid hurting a friend or an associate. Of course, having a conversation is an even better way to handle the news.
First, an email:
Subject: Unsubscribing from feeds
Today I spent time unsubscribing from newsletters and feeds I can't make time to read. Rather than having them hanging in my inbox and filling my phone, where I feel guilty about not getting to them, I decided to unsubscribe.
I wanted to let you know I unsubscribed from your feed. You write about fascinating things, but I am going to keep up with you other ways.
Let's talk soon.
Second, a text:
Hey Kyle. What's up? I wanted to tell you I unsubscribed from your feed. Nothing personal–I just need more time to get things done. When I see you, we can talk about everything. Gen
That kind of message minimizes any hurt the individual might feel. For teenagers, it keeps friendships intact. For people in business, it does the same: It supports our work relationships.
What is your view? If you unsubscribe from a friend's or an associate's feed, do you explain or say nothing? Or do you keep receiving the feed rather than hurt someone you care about?
You can find out more about supporting relationships in my new book, Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message a Time, which will be available soon. Get the first chapter free.