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This happened once before
When I came to your door
No reply

No one wants to feel disrespected or ignored. We expect acknowledgement from people whether by phone email or text or as the lyrics says through a door. 

Likewise returning messages should be important, it should be viewed as a sign of reliability, a good thing in maintaining and building relationships. Yet today, there doesn’t seem to be the same sense of urgency to respond at all.  Everyone is inundated with messages and the easy way out seems to be to just ignore what you are not interested in. Being busy is not a sufficient reason for not responding. Translated this means that not getting a response is the new “no.”

So what are the reasons for this lack of response. Complacent people usually have some reason, conscious or unconscious, for their silence. For one, they’re worried about saying no or raising a difficult issue. If it’s a message that you don’t want to deal with, it’s easier not to respond.

Sometimes, people just don’t have time to give the response they think is deserved, so they put it off until later, then forget and the message winds up being that they didn’t care enough to respond, when, in fact, they may have cared too much.

In business, replying to one email might just result in more email generating even more e-mails. On the flip side, if you are writing to someone who feels above you, they may feel unmotivated or that you don’t ‘deserve’ a response.

Adam Grant, Wharton professor and author of Give and Take says, “If I don’t spend a minimum of three hours a day answering email, it is impossible to keep up.

According to writer Margaret Heffernan, “How you deal with email says something fundamental about how reliable you are.” In one study, people who took two weeks to respond to an email, or didn’t respond at all, were evaluated more harshly, assigned more negative intentions and viewed as less credible than their responsive counterparts. 

 There is of course a downside of not responding. For one thing it degrades the relationship over time. Researchers looked at 16 billion emails exchanged by two million users over several months to see how long people took to reply and the length of response. The study finds:

  • If people are going to respond to an email, 90 percent will do it within a few days.
  • Half fire off a response in under an hour.
  • Teens reply the fastest, shooting back a response in 13 minutes, on average.
  • People aged 20-35 are almost as speedy, sending a reply in 16 minutes, on average.
  • It takes people, ages 35-50, about 24 minutes to reply.
  • People age 51 and older take a whopping 47 minutes to reply to their emails, on average.
  • Women take about four minutes longer than men to send a reply.
  • The most common responses contain five words.
  • More than half of the responses contain fewer than 43 words.
  • Only 30 percent of emails exceed 100 words.
  • Responses on the weekends are the shortest.
  • Want a lengthy reply? Make sure your email arrives in the morning.

Not replying sends a very clear message. If you don’t respond, people won’t trust you. When they don’t trust you, they won’t respect you. And when they don’t respect you, they’ll never see you as credible.

Never forget that there’s a human being on the other end of every e-mail. That person has their own deadlines, insecurities and stress. Just like you, they’re probably doing the best they can. Remember when you get NO REPLY, that sometimes it’s them, not you.

I invite you to reply and to share your experiences or thoughts, or comments. You can contact me for more information on soft and interpersonal skills workshops that can transform employees.