Do You Hate Spam? Enough to alienate your contacts?

Two days ago, I sit down at my desk and compose a long email to a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while. I spend quite a bit of time on this piece because he’s an old work friend and I know he’s been having a hard time. After editing it carefully, I fire it off. As a thanks for my hard work and considerable attention, I get the following email:

Subject: Re: Conundrum

I apologize for this automatic reply to your email. To control spam, I now allow incoming messages only from senders I have approved beforehand.If you would like to be added to my list of approved senders, please fill out the short request form (see link below). Once I approve you, I will receive your original message in my inbox. You do not need to resend your message. I apologize for this one-time inconvenience.

Click the link below to fill out the request:

I’ve seen this sort of self-controlled spam filter a few times over the last couple of months, and I’ll admit that it’s been irritating me for a while. This time though, I lost it for a moment. I’m not ready to start screaming into phones and doing away with emails, but it certainly doesn’t make me feel good about those relationships. And when it comes at just the wrong moment, it can seem like a personal affront. Ultimately though, I usually find myself taking the three minutes necessary to fill out the form and moving on with my life, especially if the person is an important contact for me. If we can recognize that these responses aren’t intended as a personal inconvenience, it is easier to understand their intention. Of course, it isn’t always so simple to just divorce one’s personal feelings from personal correspondence. And in the business world, especially for people who have a big ego (not that this is a bad thing, you need an ego to be successful), it’s all too easy to let this type of message be a slap in the face--an unequivocal statement that their time is more important than yours. I get it. We all like to pretend we’re all that and don’t have a minute to fill out a stupid form. At some point, though, it’s worth swallowing your pride and just saying whatever. Fill out the form if this person is someone you want to or need to continue talking to. It’s really that simple. To me, not filling out the form is the same as unfriending someone on Facebook. They never really know, so if you’re making a point by doing it, it doesn’t pack the punch you think it does.

On the other hand, if any of my readers are thinking about making one of these filters, consider the collateral damage. Is your spam really messing with you that much? If so, maybe you should stop giving out your email to all the companies that you buy weird stuff from online. I know that I used to get about forty emails a day from a certain online retailer; it took me months to unsubscribe. You can’t unsubscribe from friends sending you terrible email threads that they think are hilarious though. If having this sort of filter makes you that much more productive, by all means, use it. Just understand that you might be making some enemies. If you’re as big a deal as you might think you are, you won’t have to worry too much about losing contacts and friends. If you’re not quite as hot as you think you are, that email filter might mean that you no longer get any emails. Is it worth the risk? Depends how big your ego is.

Stephen Viscusi is the CEO of The Viscusi Group, a global executive search practice specializing in the interior furnishings industry located in New York City. Viscusi is the author of the HarperCollins book "Bulletproof Your Job". . Viscusi is the author of the HarperCollins book "Bulletproof Your Job". You can visit his website at or follow him on twitter at @Stephenviscusi, Instagram at Stephenviscusi and Facebook  Write him at