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13 Annoying Communications that Must End in 2016

on March 18, 2016

Complaining. It’s a Spark tradition. I know I’m not alone as one of my favorite hobbies is complaining with my friends about how annoying other people are. Many of my readers are big fans of my annual list of communication complaints (check out annoyances from 201120122013, 2014, and 2015). The success of these articles inspired me to publish a book of “80 Annoying Communications That Must End.” The ebook is available for only $.99 on Kindle or Apple iBook.

What more do you need to know? Let’s get to this year’s annoyances.

1: The entitled “Can I help you?”

Can I help you?We’ve all been in a situation where someone with the bare minimum of authority sees us doing something they simply don’t like. It might be touching something that shouldn’t be touched or waiting somewhere we’re not welcome. In either case, instead of saying, “Please don’t touch that” or “I’m sorry, but you can’t be here,” the entitled person will deliver the stern offer of “Can I help you?” Even though you aren’t looking for help, the question is asked in a tone that makes it clear that no “help” will actually be offered. This self-important person apparently has no subordinates to boss around and therefore has chosen you as their scapegoat. Thanks for taking the bullet.

2: “It’s never a good time”

It's never a good timeWhen you call someone on the phone, what are they doing at that very moment? Are they trying to concentrate on a project? Maybe they’re at an amusement park waiting in line for a roller coaster. Or possibly your call may have just awoken them from a nap. Unless scheduled, your call is unexpected, and therefore an interruption.

That’s why it’s considerate before launching into the reason you called to simply ask, “Did I get you at a good time or a bad time?” If it’s a bad time I’m happy to hang up and call back when it is a good time. The only answer I find to be both a combination of offensive and sitting on a tower of self-importance is the response “it’s never a good time.”

Well, well, I’ve obviously interrupted either the world’s most important person or an incompetent jackass who hasn’t been able to manage the one asset, time, for which we all have an equal amount. Or, more likely it’s their way of saying, “If I wanted to hear from you I’d be more polite.”

3: Immediately launching into your pitch

Immediately launching into a pitchEveryone who lives in the Bay Area is the founder of a new startup. In fact, you can’t move here until you have a fully working prototype. Didn’t know that? Look at the bylaws.

Since most startups flush their money into developing the product, what’s left for a marketing budget is usually just what you can shout out loud online or in person. While we’re all eager to tell everyone about our great idea, we’re also very aware of basic social norms, such as not launching into a pitch upon first introduction.

The “me first” attitude of networking will only cause people to both tune you out and actively avoid you. I recently had this experience at a networking event when a guy interrupted a three-person conversation to tell us about his accounting practice. He just barged in and didn’t bother to first listen to the discussion. It definitely wasn’t, “Gee, I wish someone would tell us about their accounting practice.” It got really uncomfortable very fast as each of us looked for an excuse to walk away, which we all eventually did.

4: Faux friendliness in mass emails

Faux friendliness in mass emailsIf you are sending out a mass email, especially to people you don’t know, never ever open with a casual line that assumes a personal relationship. I’ve received so many mass emails, often from PR people, that begin:

How’s it going?

I hope the week is going well.

I hope you’re having a good day!

Do they truly want to know “how’s it going?” Am I supposed to be stupid enough to think that this person who doesn’t know me, nor I them, truly wants to know “if I’m having a good day”? If they did, the next line of their email wouldn’t be an immediate launch into their pitch. For more read “The Obnoxious Trend of Faux Friendliness in Mass Mails.”

5: Unprepared presenters

I heard an extremely well known social media consultant came to an event as the keynote speaker with no presentation and asked the audience what they wanted to talk about. No one answered to which he said, “I get $13,000 a day to consult and I’m offering up this advice for free.” It appears no one got their money’s worth.

6: Moderators who close panel sessions with the “future” question

Moderators who close panel sessions with the "future" questionI attend many panel sessions and sadly most of them are flaming train wrecks shot out of a cannon swallowed by a crocodile. I have become so irritated by how poorly they’re produced that I wrote a “how to” article for panels entitled, “More Schmooze, Less Snooze: How to Deliver the Most Talked about Conference Session.”

One of my biggest panel pet peeves is moderators who automatically, without even reflecting on the previous discussion, ask the panelists, “Five years from now, where do you see the market going?”

This lazy question can be asked at any panel and it provides absolutely zero insight. It also completely erases the previous discussion. No one knows where the market is going to be in five years, and if for some magical reason they did truly know (not pontificating), why do you think they’d tell a room of strangers?

Instead, moderators should take notes during the panel session and at the end summarize a few of the key points and then thank the panelists.

7: Refusing to send your video feed in a Skype chat

Refusing to send your video feed during a Skype chatI’m bullish on video conferencing. Not only does it offer greatly improved communications, almost like having an in-person meeting, but in many cases it’s completely FREE! Whenever I set up a business meeting, I always push for a Skype video call because we’re all far more effective via video than just over an audio call. Sometimes the other party doesn’t agree to the Skype call for a variety of reasons, but if they do agree to a Skype call I expect them to send their video feed.

By not sending your video feed you knowingly put the other person at a disadvantage. For the person who is on video it’s difficult to talk to a camera and not see the other person and feed off of their reactions. Being on video requires full attention. If you can’t be seen, you also can’t be seen ignoring the person on the other line.

8: Purposeful misspellings

Purposeful MisspellingsLuckily no one my age does this, but texting and instant messaging has given rise to the world of emojis, acronyms, and purposeful misspellings.

“Kewl” is not cool. Neither is “boyz” or “girlz,” “tho,” “dawg,” or any of the others I successfully can’t remember.

It’s clear that the people who choose to write this way are perfectly capable of spelling the words correctly. It doesn’t come off as either cute or cool, but rather a person I’d rather not talk to.

9: Large email attachments

There’s no reason to clog up your inbox or anyone else’s with any attachment that’s more than two megabytes in size. File sharing services, such as Dropbox and Box, have versions that offer up gigabytes of data for free. Just post to one of these services, share the link, and let the person download the file themselves.

10: Endless email exchanges to set up a 15 minute meeting in two weeks

UGGH! Why not now? Just pick up the phone.

11: Telling people how busy you are

Ironically these same people have enough time to let the world know in email, social media, and networking events how busy they are.

We’re all busy. Who do you know who isn’t busy?

12: “Like”-baiting

"Like"-baitingYour friends on Facebook are toying with you. They’re posting content for which not “Liking” is seen as a personal insult. Being forced to participate in social media is an obnoxious trend. Many Facebook posts were not designed to create conversation or share something of value but rather their sole purpose is to generate ego-boosting “Likes.” For example, your friends expect you to “Like” their post if they’re:

  • Professing love for their spouse.
  • Demanding I “Like” a photo if I remember what something pictured or mentioned in the post is.
  • Shouting into an echo chamber about how much they love/hate a political candidate.

The reason “Like”-bating exists is people get very upset when they don’t get the “Likes” they expect. Look at a few excerpts of comments on a similar post I wrote entitled, “10 Ways We’re Rude in Social Media and Don’t Even Realize It.”

“I find it really rude when you post nice photos or memories of a great occasion or friendship and that person who is always checking FB decides to not like the status, and since it’s personal, other people rarely like it either since it doesn’t apply to them so you’re left there hanging to some extent feeling silly.” – Mel

“We do like posting pics of the places we go and hope that others would find our pics beautiful or interesting and maybe even inquire. Unfortunately, we get very few likes and/or comments and are left to believe that FB friends are jealous, resentful, or just plain mean spirited.” – McKenzie

That last line is the one that shocks me. McKenzie appears to have a very convincing dialogue in her head that she didn’t even consider the possibility that her friends are simply not interested in her photos.

13: Telling the bride and groom you “wouldn’t have missed it for the world”

Telling the bridge and groom you wouldn't have missed it for the worldA wedding is the only party you will ever attend for which you’ll be required to have a conversation with every single person. Since most weddings have about 100 attendees, and they’ll only be there for a few hours, it’s impossible to have conversations longer than a couple of minutes. In fact, you’re probably going to have the same brief conversation. It’s the one I heard at my wedding over and over again.

Bride and groom: “Thank you for coming.”

Wedding guest: “We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

What does that mean? It sounds like your wedding is the most important thing, but what are you actually missing it for? What is this alternative, the world? In reality, most of us would skip out on a wedding for a number of reasons:

  • Your kid gets sick.
  • You have too much work.
  • It’s far too expensive to attend.
  • You don’t have enough vacation days.
  • You got tickets to a great game.
  • You want a weekend at home alone.
  • You would rather be doing something else.

But most importantly, the main reason you’d miss a wedding is because you only know the bride and groom, and no one else. If that’s the case, you’ll be seated with a bunch of people you don’t know, don’t want to know, and will never see again. Realizing the only conversation you’ll have with the happy couple will be the “we wouldn’t miss it for the world” version, you decide you will miss it for the world or at least a movie on cable.

Want more annoyances?

80 Annoying Communications That Must EndDidn’t get enough? You have two choices. Either add your annoyances in the comments below or pick up a copy of my ebook, “80 Communications Annoyances That Must End,” for only $.99 available in Kindle or Apple iBook formats.


Creative Commons photo attributions to Tim Evanson, Alan Cleaver, Cubosh,, NHS Confederation, meophamman, and Matt and Rachel.

Stock photo by Bigstock photo.


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