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20-40-60 Etiquette: Caught in a chat

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Sometimes, you just don't want to be involved in a group chat. [thinkstock image]

Sometimes, you just don't want to be involved in a group chat. [thinkstock image]

QUESTION: I receive many group emails concerning special events and news of friends. The person receiving the email has the option to "reply to the sender" or "reply to the group." I find it disruptive and exhausting when others in the group reply to all. Many times there are details concerning RSVPs or personal messages that have no need to be shared. How do we educate people to become aware that they can limit their responses without offending the others? The offense, in my opinion, is in me receiving responses that are not relevant to me.

CALLIE'S ANSWER: Ask the author to put a note requesting replies only going to author if needed. Sometimes people like to see the replies though. Maybe turn off the notification on that person or give them another email address.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: If you're going to send group messages, you likely will get some “reply all” messages, mainly, I suspect, out of habit. If you're not careful, these messages can quickly become spam for everyone else. Your question is a good reminder that we all need to be careful when replying to messages and think about who really needs to see your answer — everyone? Or just the sender? It's also a good reminder that people sending the messages can put a note asking people to respond directly to them instead of to the entire group. In Facebook Messenger, as well as in text messages, it's fairly easy to “leave the conversation” by going to the settings of the message. This is a handy tool when people get too chatty. Also, I think you often have the option of muting a conversation, too, which lets you still be in the group without getting notifications about each message. There are lots of ways to be lumped into a group message these days, not just email. So check the settings of the message service you're using — email, Facebook, GroupMe (a popular and useful mobile app for large groups) and more — to see what your options are. And be aware of how you compose and respond to messages.

HELEN'S ANSWER: It is annoying to receive everyone's response, particularly if you don't know the people who are responding. Maybe the ones replying do not realize their answers are going to a huge list. It would be helpful for the original email to contain an email address for responses only. If you feel compelled to answer the “reply all,” keep your answer short and sweet.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Joe Hight, University of Central Oklahoma journalism ethics chair, and president of Best of Books: Your question is a good reminder that we need to make sure to click on “reply” instead of “reply all” to respond to invitations. Stop. Hesitate. Pause just before you send.

We also should be aware that our invitations on email or Facebook Messenger can quickly become spam if we include too many people.

Target the people who are especially interested in your event or connected to the person you want to honor or celebrate. Those are the people who you want to attend your event anyway.

The stop, hesitate and pause reminder goes both ways in avoiding unintended irritation.

Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email helen.wallace@cox.net.

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