On Friday I donated blood at a popup blood center. In the process I had to share information—about my sex partners, pregnancies, travel history, and illnesses. I had to repeatedly give my full name and birthdate. A personal exchange? Nope. It was completely impersonal. I felt like a commodity.
No one (no one!) introduced themselves or called me by my name. Nothing like “Hi Lynn. I’m Catherine.” Yes, some of the team members were wearing ID badges that hung from their necks, but those were not easy to see. And an ID badge is hardly an introduction.
Having given my unit of B+, I drank my juice, ate my cookies, and walked out.
Here’s what I wish had happened: I wish the person at the reception table had said “Hi Lynn” after she learned my name. I wish the intake person had greeted me and told me her name before she took my very personal information. I wish the phlebotomist had told me her name before she searched for my vein. I wish someone had said “Thanks, Lynn” before I left.
I'm still going to donate blood, but I wish it were a friendlier experience.
This blog is about business writing and communication. How is writing like taking blood?
Both are exchanges between human beings.
In my survey of 686 adults working in the United States, 45 percent of respondents said they prefer that the individual emails they receive (not group messages) include a greeting and their name; 49 percent don’t care. Respondents commented that an initial email should include a greeting, but the greeting can be dropped in back-and-forth exchanges. I agree.
In person and in writing, I'm among the 45 percent who like to be greeted and called by name.
Compare these brief sentences:
Good morning, Lynn!
See you next week.
See you next week, Jonathan.
We're happy to have you on the team.
Kaya, we're happy to have you on the team.
Those are examples of using the reader's name. But the same goes for using your own first name as a writer. When you write a message, including your first name at the end is a friendly way of signing off—the way you would sign a note. That's warmer than an automatic signature block or no name at all. It's the equivalent of "Hi, I'm Catherine" at the blood bank.
Yes, I like to be on a first name basis when giving blood—and when being asked in a message to agree to a meeting, reply to a question, approve an action plan, edit a manuscript or resume, etc.
Are you, like me, in the 45 percent who like to greeted by name?
For more on how to warm up business messages—even the challenging ones—get my award-winning book, Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time.