How To Respond When Someone Is Not Responding To Your Calls, Texts, or Emails
This is one of my favorite topics because it highlights our innate uncomfortableness with silence. Did I do something wrong? Are you upset? What did I do?
Data suggests that people who do not respond to emails within two weeks are judged more harshly and viewed as less credible. So your feelings are justified and, note to self, prioritize responding to work emails.
But I know you are always responsive, it’s other people who are the problem. I get it. Why does it always seem to be that when we want something we never get it? Why does this post seem to have more questions than answers?
Fear not. I was raised in the Midwest where my school district prepared us starting in kindergarten for all kinds of natural disasters that were bound for the cornfields. We’re conservative for a reason. And it was hammered into us what to do when you’re on fire: stop, drop, and roll.
Check. No one is responding to your calls, texts, or emails. You are already metaphysically stopped in your tracks. In a real fire situation, it is human to freak out and find the nearest body of water to jump into. So are you stopping or letting someone else stop you?
There is strength in choice here. Say stop to the worries and imagined consequences already becoming fact in your mind. Nothing has happened. And as my more optimistic writer friends say, nothing is not a rejection. It’s just – you know.
Like a middle child, this step feels like an intermediary. However, it is very important in the context of communication ghosting. A yoga teacher once told me, “If you want beautiful flowers, you have to tend to the roots. It’s the only way.” Once you’ve stopped your intellect from rationalizing why other people are not responding to you, it’s time to drop into your roots.
Try to unearth your own intention in the message you sent out. Did you text him why he didn’t check in with you last night out of light-hearted curiosity or an uncomfortable wonder about how he looked at the waitress at dinner last weekend? Be honest.
In a work context, did your email have an explicit request or a subtle nudge? The communication highway runs fast these days and is littered with accidents especially with tiny iPhone keyboards. Everything we write is worth a second look, especially if it’s not getting the response you hoped for.
Now here comes the action! A fire victim rolls on the ground to snuff out the fire by depriving it of oxygen. As much as you want to call someone out for being unresponsive, that is only flaming the fire not shutting off the oxygen.
As Malachy McCourt said, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” The suit you need to wear to fight this fire is forgiveness.
If, on a second read with fresh eyes, you realize that something was a little fuzzy, there’s no shame in clarifying with an additional caveat: “I think I wasn’t clear. This is what we’ll need…in order…or else…I’ll give you a call tomorrow to follow up.”
Forgiveness does not need to be an explicit apology, reconciliation, or forgetting. Based on my experience, it is the healthiest response to unresponsiveness. You forgive yourself for worrying. You forgive them for being jerks. You move on.
For example, I got wind of an amazing opportunity and reached out to the headhunter who happened to work with a past colleague. He made a generous introduction. I followed up. Crickets. I waited until after the Labor Day holiday, followed up, and finally sent this:
Hi Pat, hope you had a great Labor Day weekend. Just checking in on this. I understand if your dance card is full and will not pester you further if I don’t hear back.
I am clarifying his non-response as a response. I also gave him a reasonable out. But it goes without saying that if I ever need to hire a headhunter, he will not be on my list. That’s smart business. And forgiveness in action.