I’ve learned that it may be best to email like a cat

I’ve discovered that cats, extrusions of our human souls, have much to teach us about how to use email to our advantage.
I send lots of emails. Too many emails. I also respond instantly when other people send an email to me. And truth be told, I go on and on, interminably, in my emails.
While you might assume this superior level of responsiveness is a good thing — as it implies a loyalty to friends and family and a professional business attitude — in reality, the impact of being a responsive fool turns out to be perversely negative. In personal and work settings, an overly friendly and chatty email personality can produce the opposite of the intended effect.
Like it or not, relationships are about power, leverage and advantage. In face-to-face conversations, verbal and nonverbal communication is often about positioning yourself in relation to others so that you can achieve your goals and reinforce your sense of self. That doesn’t mean we have to be jerks. But confidence surely matters in our presentation of ourselves.
Oddly, power dynamics play out differently in email. Because there is no physical presence and no spoken words, power presents itself by holding back.
In reviewing email relationship dynamics, you may have noticed that the advantage often seems to accrue to the person who is most aloof. Who responds rather than initiates. Who responds slowly rather than quickly. Who uses fewer words rather than more words.
The effect is to communicate relative indifference. People who initiate email conversations may respond instantly and be overly verbose in their email threads, communicating a perhaps too-eager desire to please.
To use email to your advantage, you need to recognize that it is not just a means of communication. It is a tactic and part of a larger presentation strategy.
I’m not suggesting you should never initiate conversations with other people. I’m also not suggesting you not respond with reasonable dispatch or be so clipped in your replies that you sound brusque or unfriendly. Clearly, all relationships are ultimately about giving, as well as taking. You cannot meet the needs of others without a caring, solicitous persona.
But particularly with email, the flip side holds true, as well. In the absence of nonverbal cues and tonal signaling, it becomes even more important in email relationships to communicate confidence and a professionally styled regal dignity. There is simply too much opportunity for people to misread your intentions and your state of mind. So you need continually to balance those two goals — being caring and solicitous, while also projecting confidence and dignity — in your email outreach.
Try this exercise. Think about people who email the way dogs or cats respond to their owners. Dogs bound up to their owners, love attention, wag their tails, jump around, bark happily, follow their owners about the house, lick their owners and generally make it clear 24/7 how much they love and need their owners.
Cats could generally give a damn about their owners. They want their owners to feed them, empty their litter boxes, open the door for them and otherwise stay the hell out of their way. They are not rude. But their relationship with their owners is a practical relationship. Let’s call it a “professional” relationship. That’s why dogs drool and cats rule.
Consider whether, in your email conversations, you are a dog or a cat. I am a dog trying to become a cat. If you think you are a cat, no worries. But if you recognize doglike qualities in your communication style, think about ways you can assume more of a “cat” persona.

Peter H. Schwartz writes at the broad intersection of philosophy, politics, history and religion.