Don't Mistake Lack of Response for Lack of Respect
How many of you get secretly upset when someone does not email you back? Does it make you feel small or insignificant ("I must not be important enough.")… or defensive/judgmental ("Who taught them social etiquette?")? Then you have a reality check and wonder, since when did I start basing my worth on email responses or how many “likes” my Facebook post got or retweets on Twitter or connections I have on LinkedIn? I am exaggerating to make a point, but not by much.
I believe the backlash to having so much accessibility to one another through social media, email, text messaging, etc., is that people crave more human interaction than ever and are therefore more sensitive to lack of response.
In essence, the cool technologies that make it more convenient for us to connect and get to know each other are what actually make us more lonely and even judgmental -- judgmental because when we get no response, we may make assumptions to feel better about this lack of validation. This actually creates more distance when individuals want to be forming stronger, more supportive ties.
So for those of you who do more of the “outreaching,” my advice is don’t take it personally and keep following up. People get busy and overwhelmed, and though you have invested energy to make a connection, you have no idea how much is on the receiver’s plate and what their style of communication is. Timing is also key, so don’t let it be a big deal if you have to follow up a few days or weeks later.
Most important, be considerate in your outreach to make it easy for the other person to respond. Mention how you can provide value, details of an opportunity or available times to chat, anything to save the recipient’s time or incentivize them to reply quicker. Just don’t make it an essay as that screams, “File in read-later folder!”
For those of you on the other side who get contacted too much (Hello, marketing decision-makers, high-level execs), Sheryl Sandberg shared an experience that really stuck with me: As someone who prefers to send thoughtful emails, she said, “Over time I realized it was better to respond quickly with two sentences rather than wait two months to send two paragraphs.”
So the advice here is a quick response is better than no (or very delayed) response.
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