Unattached

Sometimes, I have to write about something that no one wants to talk about.  And I won’t say that I take any pleasure in it, but some things need to be said.  There’s a real problem under the surface, and you may be the next one to deal with it.

Maybe you relate to the following scenario.  You see a new email in your inbox—from a friend or loved one perhaps—someone you trust.  You open it up, not realizing what you’re getting into.  The message in the email doesn’t matter; that will change from case to case.  What matters is that the email will make promises—promises of an attachment.

The email might claim to have an attached resume, or project, or heartfelt letter.  But when you scroll down to the bottom, that attachment just isn’t there.

Yes, I’m talking about the epidemic of unattached email attachments.  If you’ve been the victim of the unattached attachment, you know the ghastly feeling of emptiness when you get to the end of the email.  Remember, there are others out there just like you—myself included.

I’ve had people send me short emails with only one sentence like, “here’s that schedule you asked for,” or “would you look over this paper for me?”  And the promised attachments are just not there.  I’m always tempted to let it go, to pretend the attachment is there so I don’t risk my friendship.  But I can’t bring myself to ignore what’s (not) right there in front of me—especially from people I care about.

Now, if you have never been the victim of an unattached attachment, don’t stop listening.  Here are some things we should all do in light of the current situation:

1. Remember, not every email is unattached.  If you start to assume this, you’ll miss some different problems, like attachments that take a long time to load or a URL instead of an attachment.

2. You can’t check every email for missed attachments.  Stick to the emails that are meant for you and you’ll be far more effective.

3. If you do receive one of these emails, remember that not all email attachments are of the same importance.  Figure out what is missing before trying to fix it.

4. And finally, you can’t always fix an unattached attachment.  Sometimes you need to email many times to get the attachment you wanted.  Sometimes you will never get that attachment.  That doesn’t mean you should stop emailing—it just means that you might email for a while without any visible results.

Maybe you are the one sending these disappointing emails.  Whether you’ve sent one or a hundred of these emails, there’s still help for you.  Your emails are not what define you.  There’s still enough time left to send a second email—probably.

The problem isn’t going to go away; and in fact people are forgetting to send the attachments now more than ever.  And I think the problem has always been there, it’s just that people are more willing to talk about it since email was invented.  But even so, each of us can win a personal battle against unattached attachments.  And if even one person can make it, then there’s hope.

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