Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do I get out of bossy chain emails?

18 April 2020

9:00 AM

18 April 2020

9:00 AM

Q. Each day while working from home, I have at least one hour-long meeting via Zoom. One of my colleagues has a dodgy internet connection and has become a terrible menace as we all politely sit through minutes of unpleasant white noise while she tries to communicate her thoughts. The meeting chair never seems to take a hard line on this; do you have any advice?
— M.C., Fosbury, Wilts

A. You would do well to join the Zoom meeting via a computer rather than your phone. Zoom will highlight the person who is speaking at any one time, so when the offender’s name comes up on the screen, you can turn to some ironing or an unfinished watercolour you prepared earlier. Simply switch off the camera setting, mute the meeting, and continue with your chosen task till you can see she has finished.

Q. Since the lockdown began, I have received six email requests from friends to take part in some kind of ‘chain’ scheme. One was a recipe exchange, and two were poem exchanges. Each requested that I should share the recipe or poem with ‘the person in position one in this email’ and then that I should ‘email it to 20 more friends via BCC’. I have no intention of doing any such thing. I think these chains are intended to spread cheer, but I find them an annoying and bossy intrusion. My instinctive response is always to do nothing at all, but this puts a strain on the next conversation with the friend who sent it. Please can you advise me on the best way to say ‘no thanks’ without (a) lying or (b) offending?
— Y.M.G., London SW6

A. Chain emails are the very epitome of passive aggression as, while posing as a fun project, they actually require the participant to annoy and make 20 other people feel guilty and for these to spread the guilt and misery exponentially. You should email the originators immediately apologising that you can’t be a link in the chain since you are currently snowed under. Most of us regard ourselves as perpetually snowed under, so that won’t be a lie.

Q. I am a keen Instagrammer but now when I post pictures showing my family still enjoying life, drinking champagne, playing tennis etc, I often get carpy comments like ‘inappropriate’ and very few likes. It’s not my fault we are a big family, three generations all isolating together and enjoying each other’s company. Mary, this is deflating. I have to admit I am slightly addicted to my ‘likes’ so what do you recommend?
— T.L., address withheld

A. It might be more tactful for some of you to wear Christmas jumpers in forthcoming Boastagrams. Followers will assume you are posting historic shots and you will generate the usual number of likes.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments