Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

On the Likelihood of Changing Others

Some people don’t treat technology they way you would want them to. Should you try and “fix” them?

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!


This is Leo Notenboom for

I was having a discussion with some friends the other day, and we touched on
the topic of email behavior and how to change it in the people that send us
email. In the past I’ve also received requests to post a “good behavior”
checklist on
that a reader wanted to then send to some co-workers.

What behaviors do people want to change? Things like:

  • CC’ing instead of BCC’ing a large list of recipients, thereby exposing
    everyone’s email address to everyone else.

  • Sending huge attachments.

  • Using evite and e-greeting services which then not only send the intended
    greeting or invitation, but continue sending offers and marketing materials
    that you didn’t ask for, also known as spam.

  • Sending in HTML when plain text will do.

  • Sending messages overloaded with cutesy graphics and backgrounds that serve
    no real purpose other than to distract the reader and slow down email

  • Forwarding humor, urban legends, chain letters and more when it’s not

The list goes on. It actually varies a great deal from person to person.
What one person finds objectionable may be another person’s favorite part of
getting email.

The common theme though is wanting the other person to change the way they
deal with email and perhaps specifically the email they send you.

Asking someone to remember your preference and then keep that straight with
all the other people they might email is a little unrealistic. (By the way,
it’s also unrealistic to think that yours is the one true way. Even if you’re
right, someone will disagree with you.)

You can ask your correspondents to change if you like. At best the other
person may try for a while until they revert into old habits. At worst, they’ll
be offended and solve the problem another way – by severely limiting any
communication with you at all.

Perhaps you wouldn’t even mind that.

But the bottom line is, and to get a little philosophical and psychological
here, you have no control over them, but you can control what you do
and how you react. In fact, you are probably the only thing in this
scenario you really have any control over.

So use the delete key. Often. Perhaps use a little technology like email
filters and multiple email addresses to control how you receive what you
inevitably will.

And yes, I will put together that “email best practices” list sometime, but
it’ll be for you, not for them. Show it to others if you like, but expecting
them to change just because you want them to … well, I’m thinking you’re in
for a lot of disappointment and frustration.

I’d love to hear what you think. Visit and enter 12164 in the go
to article number box to access the show notes, the transcript and to leave me
a comment. While you’re there, browse the hundreds of technical questions and
answers on the site.

Till next time, I’m Leo Notenboom, for

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.