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Why Don’t People Reply to Emails?

Build relationships by replying to emails.

This is a topic I get asked about — a lot. This week…

What is a person to think when they don’t get a reply to their emails?

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The natural inclination being “they don’t want to hear from me” or “they are ignoring me.” But, not knowing the back story makes a difference.

Are we talking about never replying when there is or was an established close relationship? Is this a new development or an ongoing pattern? Without those details, it is hard for me to nail down what may be the reason. Even then, personal relationships are hard to comment on by outsiders.

The Backstory Matters

In my experience, once I am informed of all the details two things come to the surface:

  • The recipient no longer wants to communicate with the sender.
  • There is a history of not replying promptly — or at all.

That said, I run into these situations as well. While personal emails are not “mission-critical” stuff, when you ignore an email from someone you know, in essence, it lets them know that they are not a priority to you.

Being a prompt responder to most of the emails I receive, a lack of reply reflects more on them than on me. Of course, I am referring to legit inquiries — not spammers.

Narcissism Prevails

We live in a me, me, me – busy, busy, busy world. But “busy” is subjective and a reflection of our priorities, right?

Our society is really self-centered, and to be frank, one of the reasons this Email Etiquette site exists. However, one thing is clear; you shouldn’t expect others to behave as you think they should — they are not you.

I regularly step back and think “outside of Judith” when I run into others who don’t think as I do. I always try to look at their motives, or lack thereof, before I assume.

When contacts are habitual non-repliers, that reflects a lack of courtesy, respect, and organization. The reality is that when something is important enough to you, you take the time to get it done.

It’s Really Not About You

You wonder if they are ignoring you. Suppose you know for a fact they received your email, then that is probably true.

However, I have several contacts who do not reply when the reply I provide is not what they were looking for. Worse, if I disagree with an incorrect assumption. Crickets.

I know they received my email. I know they have responded promptly when they like what I have to say. But when they don’t like my recommendations — no reply. So, they are in essence ignoring me.’

And guess what? I don’t take it personally. Again their lack of reply reflects more on them than me.

But, when it comes to personal relationships, relationships that need to build trust, a lack of replies do not help to solidify that relationship. In that case, you really need to consider if maintaining that friendship is worth your time and energy.

I don’t let other’s lack of courtesy change how I behave. When I receive a polite email, I will always take the time to reply. As always, it’s all about common courtesy.

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