Is it really that difficult to be professionally courteous and reply to emails?

Imagine yourself in a room, greeting someone you recognize and getting totally blown off.  No response.  No gesture of acknowledgment.  Nothing…. Nada…. Indifference….Glazed eyes….Crickets…Totally ignored….!!!!

How would that make you feel?  More importantly, would you do that to someone else?  Most likely not!  Why?  Because if would be flat-out rude and inconsiderate!

So why don’t these same rules apply to electronic communications?  If you pause and think of the number of times you have sent someone in your professional network an email and have not received any response whatsoever, even after following up a few times?

How does it feel?  Probably the same as if you were ignored, like in the physical situation described above.  If an average email response is five words long, is it really that difficult and overly burdensome to be professionally courteous?  Or are we succumbing to laziness and covering that with the cop-out and usual suspect – technical snafus?

Are we simply using the façade of the digital world with all it’s intrinsic anonymity, technical complexity and mysterious algorithms governing spam traps, as an excuse, as a convenient cloak, to cover up what would otherwise be considered as rude behavior?

I get it, everyone is super-busy nowadays trying to keep up with their daily lives and its quintessential barrage of electronic communications, social media feeds, juggling multiple responsibilities, attending redundant meetings and so on.  Replying to each and every email or voice mail can get to be really challenging and burdensome.  Absolutely!

Yet, aren’t we all essentially in the same boat, give or take some?  We are all, for the most part, striving to be productive social citizens, working at our jobs, pursuing dreams, selling our thoughts, ideas, products; running processes, departments, companies, and so on, to a lesser or greater degree.

Therefore, in this quest for a meaningful life, when we reach out to others, for whatever purpose, why should we have to face being totally blown off.  Of course, as Marie Forelo points out – that has nothing to do with us, personally.  No doubt, a reassuring fact to know.  Yet it still feels deflating, frustrating and sometimes downright annoying, doesn’t it?

When someone outside my regular sphere of involvement (cold or warm email senders) sends me an email that is not an obvious spam or phishing email, I quickly assess a few things about the email.  Is the email clearly not a fill-in-the-blanks template/form letter type email? Is it sincere?  Does it indicate that the sender has taken the time to do some study or research about me or my company?   If all of the above are true, then I make it a point to reply.  Even if it is to simply say, “Sorry, not interested, because….”.

I respect the time and effort which the person took to reach out to me.  She could have been pursuing other leads rather than spend her valuable time writing to me.  A 20 or 30-second response tells her that I have received her email and either will get back to her or I explain, briefly, why I was not the right person.  That is a small gesture, a courtesy, that I owe to a fellow human being who is a professional doing their job or pursuing their passions, dreams, and ambitions.

Is that too much to ask?

If a person receives several hundreds of such emails in a day, then even the 20 or 30 seconds can add up very quickly.  I get that! Then again, if they are a person who receives several hundreds of such emails in a day, then they most likely have people working on staff who could extend that small courtesy to those reaching out.

I cannot describe the immense respect I feel for CEO’s, Presidents, VP’s, Directors, all extremely busy people in their own rights,  who take the time to reply to my emails. They reflect the much-respected ethos of great celebrities and leaders who have been known, even in today’s tech age, to reply personally to each and every fan mail/e-mail.  Even if it is a brief sentence, I know that they really care about fellow human beings and respect the time that I took to reach out to them.   Despite their busy schedules, they take the time to personally reply.  Then, of course, there are others that I never hear back from.

I get it, they are very busy!