Don’t leave me hanging on

If someone drops you a polite note, it’s nice to reply.  When you don’t respond, I wonder – is it because……

a.  You don’t know the answer

b.  You’re busy

c.  You don’t give a damn

d.  You didn’t read it yet because you have a lot of emails

e.  You have no intention of doing it until you’re chased

f.   You don’t really see it as a priority

Or anything else that I don’t really understand.

Can I ask you – take the time to give an honest reply.  There are really busy people I work with and communicate with constantly who are always the first to fill in a doodle, respond with information for a project, reply to meeting invites, offer up dates, etc.

Then there are really busy people who must be busy dealing with their avalanche of unreplied to emails.  I might have sent three reminders, rather than one rather straightforward simple request, or it all becomes last minute because I forget to remind you and then things don’t get done well, and everyone gets a bit irritable.

I am rather confused by the non-responder; is it passive/aggressive resistance?   Is it a dismissal of others needs?  Is it fear to say that you don’t want to do something?    Probably if you’re a non responder, you won’t respond to this.   But I wonder how much time is taken up by us chasing each other.  I say us; I mean you, because I believe that to be acknowledged is an important human need, and it’s something I am committed to.


15 thoughts on “Don’t leave me hanging on

  1. Given the topic and tone, it’s hard not to comment…but, in my experience, your observation is correct. So often it seems to be those who are clearly busier than most who are the ones who show the consideration and courtesy of replying without needing prompting. I suspect both aspects are linked – if you are responsive and supportive others will turn to you in times of need and, once people know they can rely on you, they will keep requesting your assistance and hence you become busier. There is a slight tribal aspect to this. We tend to ask to work with people we like and trust. As the relationship becomes stronger a bond develops that results in preferential treatment to those we have become close to. I know that I am guilty of replying first to those I value most. That does not mean that I don’t strive to respond to all -that’s simple courtesy and who knows what the future might hold?

    1. Kate, thanks for taking the time to comment, and sharing your reflections. I found them interesting and it gave me pause for thought too. I concluded that when people don’t know me, then they have no knowledge of who I am and my priorities- so I probably give them a quicker response as I figure those I value know me and know that I always respond. Or do I? Will observe myself a little and check out my own prioritising.

  2. It is nice to reply, though not always easy. Most times I’m a replier, a quick note or a sorry I can’t give you the full details now but will on x day. However, when the black dog is about I disappear; I don’t reply, don’t acknowledge and find the interaction incredibly difficult – both personal and professional.

    I think, often, that when someone doesn’t reply or behave in the way that we think we would in the same situation our natural response is to wonder what’s wrong with us, rather than to wonder what’s going on with them. Yes sometimes its because they are rude or don’t value our time, and other times its because we’re on the too difficult pile or the less urgent right now. But then sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nothing to do with our message or our time of us at all but something completely different.

    Of course, they could just be being an arse……unfortunately sometimes people are.

  3. Reading this, Amanda’s line of thinking was very much in my head. We often think we deserve a response without thought, consideration or awareness of what is affecting the other person. There is a reason why they haven’t replied but why do we so often think it’s not a good reason? Maybe more often than not we actually leave ourselves hanging on? Oh & sometimes that delayed or non-response is in fact an honest reply 🙂

  4. In the modern world with the amount of communication (promotional, sales social work personal) we recieve it is impossible to respond to all with equal priority.

    Read a book called “getting things done” by David Allan. Totally changed stress associated with large in box. Also probably improved me getting back to people.

    Re getting back to people I tend to use following approach
    1:If I know you – Quick response –
    2: do not know – but tailored to me individually – medium response
    3: not tailored but interests me – intermittent
    4: all other – unlikely to respond

    Or an I just over thinking it

    1. I think I agree with you that we can feel overwhelmed. Thanks for sharing your priorities; it’s interesting – I was writing from the perspective of I am already in some kind of interactive relationship with you – we are colleagues/clients/stakeholders with mutual interests dealing with transactional matters, eg I need something from you for a meeting; you never respond unless I chase you.

      This blog has had the most amount of shares on twitter and linked in, likes, and views apart from one other blog – and on a Sunday too! It appears to have landed. So I am still left with my puzzlement! Thanks so much Alex for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  5. Hi Meg – nice post, and I agree with the sentiment and at the same time there are different flavours in the mix.

    You gave an important clarification in one of your follow up replies.

    ‘I was writing from the perspective of I am already in some kind of interactive relationship with you – we are colleagues/clients/stakeholders with mutual interests dealing with transactional matters, e.g. I need something from you for a meeting; you never respond unless I chase you.’

    Putting the speculative stuff, and the unsolicited stuff to one side, it does get harder to understand why people don’t respond to requests to progress what appear to be mutually beneficial stuff.

    I don’t really get it myself, and yet there are always other things at play. For example, I became much less responsive in the aftermath of Dad’s death. And there are times when I receive a note from someone which I may feel does not warrant a response, or the response I may wish to send might make an unhelpful situation even more unhelpful so I leave it. And of course – I make mistakes. Sometimes I overlook things, and sometimes I see them again down the line and I feel too embarrassed to reengage.

    On the whole though – given the perspective you added, I too find it odd…

    In recent months I’ve had to chase friends to make dinner choices, follow up with clients repeatedly for a simple acknowledgement of supposedly very important work, chase up overdue invoices, and meeting confirmations. That kind of stuff – I struggle with – and if you can, sometimes it’s just easier to let go.

    I enjoyed Kate’s and Pontecarloblue’s responses to your post and Alex’s approach also has me thinking about other ways I could look at this whole responsiveness thing.

    Thanks – Doug

    1. Thanks Doug.

      I agree there are always going to be good reasons for not responding do to with health, family, other pressing issues. However, I notice that there are some who (nearly) always respond to more or less everything, and those who are always inconsistent, erratic, late unless it’s what they want of course.

      Perhaps it’s about values; consistency is a quality I value. For example, I have one client who always responds; she will prioritise; no answer from her in the short term means “I don’t have a strong opinion, do what you think”. If she has an opinion, strong view, she offers it. If you need something from her in terms of dates, confirmation etc – she’s always first in. one of the busiest HRDs I know. She’s consistent. I have never had to ask/query etc more than once. You’re the same, that’s why I like working with you. You are congruent with your business values.

      What’s interesting to me that this is now in my top 5 most read blogs, and all over a weekend too. This means something I think.

  6. So much insight has been shared already in response to this thought provoking piece. At the risk of sounding naive, does relationship
    (be it casual, formal, social….) not imply responsiblity of some sort? Could the issue raised in your piece also be about failure to take responsibility?

  7. Thanks Meg, it does seem that some people don’t think it applies to them to respond to emails, letters, text messages, any kind of communication to them. Funny enough, the busiest people are the one who tend to respond straight away! A classic example of this is me dropping an email to the host of a major seminar this am that I couldn’t make it after all, explained my reason and he responded straight away, about an hour before he was going on stage!

    In my book, it is common curtesy to respond to any communication sent to me.

    Bina. X

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