For me, the most difficult thing about sending an email is not knowing what tone to use for the person I’m emailing. Lucky for me, that’s the kind of problem a new app called Crystal aims to solve. Well, part of it anyway. Crystal's tools and services are built around one principle: “communicate with empathy.”
Crystal creates personality profiles for you and your contacts (or anybody with an Internet presence, it seems) that breaks down how you communicate and work in person and online. The app gathers data based on public information available online and, if you use the Crystal Gmail extension on Chrome, data from your email communication. It creates one-sentence summaries about your personality, your communication preferences in person and in email. It’ll even allow you to compare your profile with somebody else in order see what your work relationship would look like. The Gmail extension will even offer suggestions of how to draft emails to specific people.
After trying out Crystal with a few of her coworkers, Selena Larson from the Daily Dot concluded that “[i]t walks the line between innovative and super creepy, but it’s hard to deny it actually works.”
I’m currently on the waiting list for Crystal, but I definitely feel the “innovative” part more than the “creepy” part. I don’t deny that an app’s ability to explain my communication and work personality to anybody who wants to look me up is a little worrisome. But considering that Crystal is using public information that I’ve already put out there (especially considering that I’m a blogger), I'm not too freaked out by it.
As Elana Zeide pointed out on Slate, the only real difference between using Crystal and Googling somebody is “Crystal’s algorithms take that mildly invasive activity much further by analyzing and synthesizing all that information to paint a clear — if not wholly accurate — picture of someone based on her Internet presence.” The information’s already out there; Crystal’s just deciphering it for people.
While I wait for my Crystal invite, I already know that I prefer emails that skip pleasantries and get directly to the point. I also know that some people hate those kinds of emails. I suffer from the kind of email anxiety that results in never knowing if my tone is professional enough, direct enough, or friendly enough for whoever I’m emailing. And that’s what Crystal wants to improve.
“I had become a big believer in communicating empathetically,” Drew D’Agostino, Crystal founder, said in an interview. “And by that I mean, understanding people have different ways of communicating and seeing how especially in things like email, how things just become very confusing sometimes.”
Crystal is probably a great tool for marketers, but I appreciate it for what it’s trying to do for communication between colleagues. If I could spend less time stressing out over whether my greeting makes me seem friendly or like a pushover, I'd be thankful.
Images: Crystal (4)