I’m sure you have heard this before. Usually this is advice people dole out when you are tempted to make an angry response to something you were accused of in an email, or when you are tempted to make an impulse buy on a website, or when you might have been sent a message designed to steal your identity if you open a link. All good reasons to think before you click. But I have something different in mind.

Think before you click on that “Reply All” button.

I think just about everyone that uses email has been conditioned to use “reply all” if more than 1 person was sent the original message. Make sure everyone has the information, right? Well, if you have actual new information that all recipients need to proceed, then yes. But most people seem to have concluded EVERY reply to EVERY message MUST be to ALL people on the message. And that is not true!

If all you are doing is saying thank you to the sender, or if you have something to say to only one other recipient, replying to all is doing serious disservice, and showing massive disrespect, to everyone else at the table.

I did a speech in my Toastmasters club some years ago about a fictional office worker who gets so overwhelmed by needless reply all emails that it made him physically sick. The fictional character was diagnosed with RATS – Reply All Trauma Syndrome. It was a silly speech and people laughed, as was my intent. That was my way of dealing with the absolute mindlessness that people exhibit when they reply to emails.

Even worse than the Reply All to say, “thanks for the info” (which really makes my blood boil) is if there are 10 people on the original message, and person 4 has something to say to person 7 that no one else needs to be involved with. Person 4 just mindlessly clicks reply all and gives the message to person 7. But person 7 needs some clarification and also replies to all to ask person 4 for further information. Person 4 replies to all…. and eventually the other 8 people have 10 additional emails in their inbox that they had no need or use for.

It has reached the point where business experts, trainers and others have developed entire training courses on dealing with the email inbox. The vast majority will recommend finding some way to hide the inbox notifications, and dedicate a specific block of time for reading email during the day. Why? Because reading email now contributes to unproductive time. I believe the reason is all the junk email. “Junk email” is not just the central African “I have millions and need you to stash it for me” identity theft, “please date me” overtures and overseas prescription offers. It’s also the endless Reply All emails that should never be sent.

Today’s call to action is easy. PLEASE engage in careful consideration before you click on that Reply All button. If only one person needs to see your message, use Reply (or if it’s someone other than the original sender, hit Reply All and delete all the names other than the one you are addressing). If there is nothing else to say, don’t reply at all – this includes just saying “thank you for the information.” There is NO NEED to send that message. If the sender might get upset that no one says thank you, let him/her get therapy for that while everyone else goes about their day.

Please, think before you click!