The worst seven words in business and/or the world
...And how I avoid them
George Carlin had his seven words you can't say on television.
But I present to you seven words you should never say in business.
I hope this email finds you well.
These might be the seven worst words in the English language.
I receive emails — and worse, LinkedIn messages — with this disgusting phrase twelve hundred times a day. How many for you?
This dishonest seven-word phrase is a pack of piranhas in sheep’s clothing. It’s so obvious. It’s a Times Square billboard. It’s the Vegas Sphere screaming, "I WANT TO TAKE SOMETHING FROM YOU!"
Don't these people/bots realize that when these seven words are read, defensive shields go up faster than the Starship Enterprise deep in Romulan territory (amirite?).
Even national treasure/r Alexander Hamilton learned this the hard way.
“Dear Sir, I hope this letter finds you in good health
And in a prosperous enough position to put wealth
In the pockets of people like me: down on their luck
You see, it was my wife who you decided to---”
If someone wishes you GOOD HEALTH in a letter, pull the rip cord. IT'S A TRAP! (and yes, I know this wasn't the actual letter, but the bit works better using Lin Manuel's sweet sweet words.)
These salesy notes have RUINED what was a VERY NICE gesture, back when people actually sent letters.
Before all mail was electronic, you'd send a letter and legitimately NOT KNOW if someone was sick, or dead(!). There was a chance that your important words — that you wrote on parchment using the ink from a squid(?) — wouldn't reach their destination. There was RISK in your effort being wasted. So yeah, you HOPED they were in good health.
This kind, gentile act of wishing someone well dates back to the first century. So yeah these spammers have ruined THE BIBLE. You know, THE GOOD BOOK?
Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that
you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.
3 John 1:2
The apostle John wrote this to a friend to THANK HIM for being hospitable to strangers. That's it. No bait and switch. It wasn't "I hope this scroll finds you well. Sacrifice a goat if you want to book a spot on my Calendly."
People used to care! Really care!
And that wonderful, historic human kindness has been warped into a gross ball of goo. Like what that gorgeous, in-his-prime Jeff Goldblum became at the end of The Fly. (if you don't like ooze, don't Google it)
And I'm done with it. I'm ready to fight back.
Here's what I've done:
I've created a FILTER in my Gmail that AUTOMATICALLY DELETES any email that has the words "finds you well" in it.
Whether an email, a message, a note or carrier pigeon, if it's hoping to "find me well," it goes straight to hell.
It's a risk, I know. What if the King of England attempts to find me well? What if Charlie Munger’s last email before he died, full of his genius investing wisdom, tried to find me well?
Worth the risk.
No influential or successful person with a shred of dignity and a desire to help me would write this.
Only thieves and robbers who want to get their greedy finglies on my money say this. You are in the company of fraudsters. You are Nigerian princes.
"Alec, Alec, you're overreacting. Surely there is some GOOD in the hearts of people who write this? You say all the time that people are doing the best they can!"
I reject your faith in humanity. Let's go deeper and break down this offensive phrase, word by word.
I -- You're not a person. you're either a bot or a husk of a human.
Hope -- Oh really, your fingers are crossed? You spent time in your morning prayer sesh considering me?
This -- Oh a Demonstrative. Whew, I wouldn't have known you were talking about THIS email vs the 406 others in my inbox (just kidding, I’m inbox zero. i’m awesome at email, don’t judge me)
Email -- That's the thing about email. It's endlessly copyable. It costs you nothing to send. It's nearly worthless. This is the cheapest and least unique fishing lure I've ever seen. I'm not biting.
Finds -- Finds? At the end of a long digital journey? Come on. An email finds nothing. If anything it's found a face of disgust and a finger ready to click the JUNK button
You -- You don't know me! My desires! My foibles! My dark, dark secrets. Keep my name out of your mouth.
Well -- Yeah, healthy enough to let you into my calendar and/or wallet. GET OUT OF HERE
So, this is a long way of saying...
No, this email has not found me well.
It's made me worse.
It's made all of us worse.
All eight billion of us
we, kind, caring, gentile humanity,
NEXT UP in this "Bad Business Lingo" rant/series:
“pick your brain”
“just bumping up in your inbox”
“I've been impressed by the progress of [your company]”
the "my boss wanted me to forward to this you" fake out
“I guess you're not the right person”
and finally, the one line that actually drops defensiveness
Don’t miss the next one….
Thanks for reading. Boy, that escalated quickly. I really lost it there for a second. Do you have any pet peeves? Anything I missed about bad business email intros?
Check out my previous business-adjacent rants: