Hope you’re well – when does the oil of communication become grit in its gears?

Dear reader,

I hope you are well.

Indeed, I do. After all, what type of person would I be if I hoped you’re not well?

It goes without saying, surely?

Its use by PR practitioners clearly frustrated the Economist’s Anne McElvoy according to her recent tweet…


I have some sympathy – nearly every time the phone rings and it’s a sales, marketing or fund-raising call, the caller opens with a scripted “how are you today?” I hate it. I feel put on the back foot, politeness requiring me to respond to a faceless stranger about my personal wellbeing. I’ll be itching to put the phone down, whatever they have to say.

But this has got me thinking about the flipside.

Why do we pepper our communications, spoken and written, with phrases – comments and enquiries – that are arguably redundant?

It seems that, in many ways, they are the oil for the gears of human interaction; reducing friction and helping things run more smoothly. Without them the gears still work but they grind.

So, some attention to personal circumstances is a good thing. For example, what I do like from unsolicited calls is those which open by asking if it is a convenient time to call. That, to me, shows proper concern that I may be in the middle of something pressing.

Of course, it’s not one oil for all applications. Butter might help get a tight ring from a finger, but it’ll play havoc with your two-stroke, petrol-fuelled hedge-cutter.

What we may think is a friendly gesture, others find unnecessary, insincere, even creepy. It can also get tiresome in its overuse: note that Anne McElvoy tweets about seeing the same statement four times in one morning. The oil of communication has become grit in the gears.

It’s tough enough getting a journalist’s attention; worse still if your email triggers a negative reaction that has them reaching for the delete key before they’ve even finished the opening sentence!

I don’t think there any golden rules here. But, till a relationship is established, my feeling is less is better than more: keep to the point, and be politely formal.

Your thoughts? Are there phrases that you automatically use, or put your back up the moment you read them? Do you have your own rules of engagement?

In the meantime, dear reader, I hope this has found you well, and that you’re having a great weekend. Love to you and yours xxx !

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