Do your attempts at sarcasm backfire repeatedly? Are you unsure whether to use an emoticon? Have you spent more than 5 minutes wondering what to put in the subject line?
You could be the perfect candidate for Crystal, a new tool that bills itself as the “best improvement to email since spellcheck,” which has been described as “somewhere between a horoscope and a Myers-Briggs profile”.
Crystal creates a unique profile for anyone who uses LinkedIn, assesses their personality and offers tips on how to speak, email and work with them most effectively. With remarkable specificity it can tell you the words, style and tone you should use to communicate with the recipient in a way that suits them – including their attitude towards sarcasm and emoticons.
How? Crystal builds this profile from everything it can find about the person online: their public Facebook information, blog posts, tweets and all other traces that we leave behind as we use the internet.
If you’re willing to pay for a premium account, Crystal will even draft emails to individuals you’ve never met before, using a specific tone and language that should resonate with them, given their online activity.
It’s pretty easy to sign up for Crystal, although you will be told you have to join a waiting list before getting access to this tool. If you’re open to tweeting about the service you can fast-track your way past the waiting list and, from my experience, will only have to wait a few minutes before you receive an email inviting you to create your account.
“Izzy is loyal, ambitious, articulate, and prefers strengthening long-term relationships over creating lots of new ones,” Crystal says about me. I prefer people to “state [their] purpose of the email in the first sentence” and refer to data to back their point instead of telling jokes to build rapport. It’s 95% confident of its accuracy given the amount on online data is has managed to glean about me, and I have to admit its assessment is eerily accurate.
I’m dubious about how well the email plugin will work, but I decided to go for it and send a test email to myself to see Crystal’s suggestions.
When composing a new message using Gmail you need to verify the person you are emailing by clicking the button next to ‘Send’. You’ll then see Crystal’s advice based on the recipient's personality profile.
When writing emails to me, Crystal advises -
I’m impressed. When it comes to work emails I like people to be professional and to the point, but not too cold. I don’t feel well equipped to deal with banter or the dry, self-deprecating humour Brits tend to use (possibly because of the American in me), but if I know someone well I do use emoticons.
This extra information would make me put a lot more thought into writing an email, but the pointers are extremely helpful. When writing an email that suits the personality of the recipient you see an encouraging “Good job” at the bottom of the message; if not, it indicates that it has some suggestions.
Crystal is honest, direct and clear. Maybe it feels a little too much like it is watching over your shoulder as you write, but the constructive feedback and suggestions makes it a helpful tool rather than a cause for anxiety.
However, there remains something somewhat disconcerting about Crystal and what it will change about email communication. When receiving an email from someone I’m not sure I want to read something perfectly tailored to me and my communication preferences – I also want to get a sense of the emailer’s personality, especially if it’s from someone I don’t know.
I’m all for personalisation and preventing miscommunication and friction between people, there’s something unsettling about the face that anyone using this tool can see your preferences and personality spelt out so plainly. I’m not sure I want to receive emails from sales professionals that are all the same and all written to sway me by creating false empathy. Crystal’s power, after all, is based purely on algorithms and therefore eradicates what is arguably the most important part of communication – human connection.
Overall, I give Crystal a big thumbs up and would recommend this to any professional who frequently uses email to communicate internally and with people they’ve never met before, but I hope that this will always be used as a guide and not a replacement for the writer’s natural style and tone.
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