Do you have folks that you email — and crickets? Then, maybe, a couple weeks later — they reply. In some cases ignoring the content of your email to comment on what they want to write about.
Clearly your communications are on their terms. Not a good feeling, right?
I know everyone is busy. I’m a pretty busy person as well. But I make the effort to respond to those who email me in a timely manner. Not just because I run two email etiquette websites, but because that’s just what you do.
The exception, of course, being those who send me sales pitches or offers. I didn’t ask for that pitch, nor am I interested in your offer. Therefore, I don’t feel that I am obligated to respond.
Family and Friends are Different
A site visitor writes:
My brother-in-law never acknowledges messages that I send to him unless I ask him a direct question…and, even then, he sometimes fails to respond…so I have no way of knowing when, or if, he’s received my message…or what he thinks about it. What’s the etiquette here?
In this day and age, rare is the email that is not received. Especially by those you communicate with on a regular basis. Over time email software learns who you communicate with so the chances of your emails landing in spam or junk folders is minimal. Even then the email is received.
The proper etiquette is to have the courtesy to reply as soon as you can. Sometimes folks have busy schedules, are away from their computers or may not think a reply was necessary. But that doesn’t negate the courtesy in replying eventually.
If we are to be honest, written communications are just as much relationship builders as phone calls. When we reach out to communicate with others we are sharing a bit of ourselves with the person we are communicating with.
What if you are really busy and just don’t have the time right here and then? Then, reply as soon as you possibly can. There is an expectation of a speedy reply with email because the sender knows their email is in your inbox shortly after clicking Send.
Being Ignored Hurts
This is one of the dilemmas I get emailed about quite a bit. The frequency of which hasn’t changed in the two decades that I’ve been running this website.
If you don’t respond, the other side will assume you are ignoring them. To that end, I’ve actually had site visitors reply that “they intended to ignore” the person they didn’t respond to.
Wow. Then why not be honest with that person and let them know you don’t think further communications are a good idea and wish them the best? Because it is easier for you to be a coward.
Especially with friends and family, they deserve a reply, a sit-down or a phone call if they reach out.
Most times, however, I don’t think onliners are making a conscious decision to ignore those who send them email. But in our rush-rush, never-enough-time culture it is easy for many to do just that.
From a Senders point of view, make sure your email is clear and concise and one that the recipient will want to read and reply to. If you would like a response, ask for one. “Can you please let me know?” “I look forward to hearing back soon!”
Email with Value
You should not expect a reply from forwarded emails where you don’t take the time to type a personal message as to why you are forwarding that email to that particular person. If you can’t make that effort — don’t expect a reply.
I think some folks are so “all about me” that they really don’t think about how their lack of response impacts those who care about them. If that is the case, I would have to reconsider continuing to email someone who cannot even show you the simple courtesy of a reply.