How to write like Raymond: Contacting another team for the first time

Raymond Chen

I will from time to time have a question for another team that I have not previously interacted with, or a team that I interact with occasionally and do not wish to overstay my welcome. My general approach is to open the email message with a greeting along the lines of

Hello, intelligent and (if I may say so) frightfully attractive members of the XYZ team.

After buttering them up, I ask my question.

I don’t know if it helps, but I figure it doesn’t hurt.

A colleague of mine shared a story of an incident that occurred over 15 years ago. He was part of a team that hosted a group of college students who were visiting the Microsoft Redmond campus. At the end of the day’s activities of visiting various buildings and introducing them to Microsoft employees across many different engineering teams, the tour organizer asked if any students had any questions.

One student sheepishly raised his hand and hesitantly said, “I expected people here to be better looking.”

The student immediately recognized that this comment was inappropriate, awkwardly lowered his hand, and hung his head in shame for the rest of the session.

So um, yeah, don’t do that. Even if you think it, don’t say it out loud.

9 comments

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  • Git Profile 0

    I donโ€™t think this type of humor is permitted anymore.

    Lots of other things are permitted, but none involve humor of any kind ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Andreas Rejbrand 0

      I wouldn’t dare to try this in Sweden. The part about attractiveness would likely be interpreted as sexual harassment.

      • Azarien 0

        Why would calling someone attractive be a “harrasment”. This is insane.

        • Fredrik Kappmeier 0

          There is a huge difference between calling a group of (mixed-gendered) people attractive and calling an individual attractive. The former, as described in this post, is a nice and polite way to compliment a group of people. The latter, depending on context, can be received as harassment, especially coming from a stranger.

  • Ray Koopa 0

    Hello, intelligent and better looking Mister Chen,

    this must be why you’ve never replied to any of my comments throughout the years. Despite me actually having bought your book ages ago and loving it.

    Okay, just kidding. Not about the book part though.

    But I’m not sure, if someone I don’t know would choose such greeting in an email, I’d be wondering if he’s actually serious or making fun of me…

    • Ismo Salonen 0

      It’s also a cultural thing. We finns tend to sound blunt as we go usually straight to business, no small talk or buttering up. Life’s too short for such nonsense ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Maybe Raymond could do some miniseries of such differences as he has already done similar posts with various languages he’s been learning.

      • ็ด…ๆจ“้ฎ 0

        I’m afraid even Japanese people don’t talk like that. Keigo in Japanese are mostly set vocabulary, phrases and grammar, and are definitely not as over-the-top as “intelligent and frightfully attractive”.

        Chinese speakers today use even less formalisms, usually reserved for addressees that are definitively higher in social status and/or in very formal contexts.

    • Jonathan Harston 0

      Hey Chief. I might be wrong, but I think we’re flying into a mountain. This makes me feel…. scared of the mountain.

  • sean echevarria 0

    Life advice from Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker:

    Think it, don’t say it

    (wording as best as I can recall without having gone back to the book)

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