On email signature quotes

Like most of you, my office life revolves around emails. I don’t consider myself a socially active person, but even then I get about 20 mails a day. Some of these emails interest me deeply, because of something that they carry beyond the email itself. That’s a ‘quote’ (I think it’s called an email signature quote) that some people put beautifully below their signature. Every time I see such a quote, I think of the person and almost every time there is a huge disconnect. This is something that has interested me for a long while.

Today I happened to meet someone for a discussion. This was the first time we met, though we have exchanged mails before. There was a quote under his signature that said “Only strength can cooperate. Weakness can only beg”. The message was clear enough – I am of the first type in case you don’t know (or at least this is what I thought it conveyed) and I was skeptical when I went to meet him (thanks to past experiences on the similar lines). The meeting was a complete disaster. I presented him the plan for an initiative that we had undertaken and there was one area where I wanted his support. He cut me short and showed me a plan that he had prepared and presented to the CEO sometime back. The key difference was in his approach the long-term plan and the short-term plans were sequential while in mine, they were sort of parallel. I tried to explain to him why would a parallel approach work and finally meeting ended up with him making a statement like ‘I am not used to being told how to do something’.

As I walked to desk post the meeting, I was thinking again about the signature quotes. Why do people put them there? And for what purpose? Are they trying to convey something ? And why is it that there is always a contradiction?

Interestingly most of these signature quotes are about intangible things like creativity, commitment, attitude etc which people generally like to associate with themselves but at the same time are hard to prove or disprove. I have not yet seen a quote that says – come to office on time or switch off lights when you leave, which would have made more sense practically. But as it so happens all these quotes are about higher levels of consciousness and super human qualities! My take on the purpose of putting these quotes in the mail is this – to convey that they are of a different league or they are at a higher conscious plane. This is where I find the contradiction. Almost in every case I find the person badly lacking the quality that the ‘quote’ is trying to highlight.

One possibility is that these people are aware (unconsciously may be) of this lack and they are trying to project it the other way to skillfully hide it from others. Or is it that they sincerely want to possess those qualities and publishing it like this will in a way force them to imbibe that quality? That would be a more positive way of looking at it.

I sincerely hope so.

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