or “How do YOU want to be contacted?”
Espousing etiquette principles these days is risky. Societal norms are constantly changing. However, it is a mine field that we have to maneuver if we want to get our message across – no matter what that message is. The tricky things these days lies in how to communicate it. From a personal point of view, you can be safe if you call your grandmother, email your mom and text or PM your friends on Facebook.
What about in a business context? First, you can use the same principles to start. You can make your first guess as to how to contact someone based on their age and your relationship with them. Generally speaking, formal business correspondence has vanished so you probably don’t need to start with a letter. However, if you think they are an elder statesman and you do not know them well, you should start with a formal email. Use “Dear Mr. Smith” and “Sincerely”. Use proper grammar, punctuation and a formal signature line. If you do know them well or they have invited you to give them a call, CALL THEM ON THE TELEPHONE.
If the person you are trying to reach is probably of the Baby Boomer generation, by all means email them. You do not need to be as formal. You can start with their first name and finish with an informal sign off. Once again, however, be sure to include your contact information in your signature line. It is annoying if you are trying to get back with someone, and they have not given you their phone number in the signature line. It is even worse if the signature line shows a website and the website “Contact me” doesn’t have a phone number either. That is, of course, unless you actually do not want them to call you.
Finally, if you are trying to reach someone in their twenties or thirties, they generally do not want to be called and they may not read their emails regularly. You are better off texting them. Friending them on Facebook may not be a good idea. You may learn more than you wanted to know.
Having started with these generalities, however, take your clues from how they contact you. If they call you, they likely would rather be called. If they text you, feel free to text them. Sometimes, they will tell you their preference. Use it. If you are the person being sought, you can set the tone of the correspondence, but, if you are trying to gain favor with the other party – a job, some business, a contact, etc., follow their lead on how they want to be contacted. It’s just good business.
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