Thursday, April 14, 2016

Two emails/texts is one too many


Today's post is a straight rant. Feel free to stop reading if you're one of those "look on the bright side" people.

I'm currently feeling exasperated with the way too many of my American friends and colleagues often receive a text or email and don't respond to it until I send a second one saying "Did you get my text?" or "Did you get my email?"

It's possible that this is a personal problem and no one else ever has to chase anyone down for a response, but I suspect this is a common problem. Why don't some people at least respond with, "Got your message. I'll get back to you." That's how people do it in other countries. They acknowledge that they received your email even if they're not ready to give you a solid answer.

Maybe Americans dislike responding unless they can send a full, well-considered message. If my question is, "Will there be PowerPoint capability at the meeting?" maybe the person wants to find out the answer before they get back to me, and then finding out the answer takes longer than they expected and then a day or two has gone by and I'm wondering if they even got my text/email in the first place. It's frustrating.

Or maybe someone reads the email, thinks, "No, we can't do PowerPoints, but I need to give her a full explanation for why and I don't have time right now, so I'll respond when I'm out of this meeting." And then they just never get back to it.

Or maybe the person imagines responding, visualizing exactly what the text should say and seeing themselves keying it in, and then they think they responded even though they actually never did.

Another part is probably the way Americans equate busy-ness with living an important, meaningful life. I believe this has a lot to do with the American ego and our need to feel needed. This need keeps us over-scheduled and overwhelmed, but that's okay because this level of busyness means we're necessary to the functioning of family, work, society and the planet in general. We believe those who are most important are also the busiest. This often blocks us from having time to communicate with even a lousy text.

But what's striking is how often the same person who has ignored my email for a week, writes back immediately when I forward my email to them and ask, "Did you get this email?" It also happens when I sent a text 24 hours ago, got no response and follow up with "Did you get my text?" The second request for connection often gets a quick response. Why is that? Is guilt at work? Maybe the person finally spits out an answer (however incomplete) because they realize they've been sloppily incommunicative and have failed to keep up their end of the exchange. Guilt finally gets them to say, "Sorry, no we can't do PowerPoints." And then they stutter out the rest of it as they can, which is maybe, "We've got the room w/o tech because Terri didn't reserve soon enough."

Why is communication so hard for us, people??? Or am I imagining this problem? Does this happen only to me?

6 comments:

Dave Hirsh said...

Hi Regina,
I agree. Many times I send an email, text, or leave a voice message and get no response until I follow up, and then I get a response. I'm a general contractor and one of the things my clients always say to me is they're surprised how quickly I get back to them when they leave me any kind of message. One thing I will say, however, that with texting, people do send messages at all hours of the day, or evening, or on Sunday (my only day off) so I try to make it clear that sometimes I won't respond until the next morning.

Anonymous said...

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Dave, you're one in a million.

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Anonymous: nice.

Andria Anderson said...

Good imagining there, Regina. Your guesses as to what the non-responders are doing and thinking match the things I do (and don't) do. And, yes, certainly, your, "Did you receive it?" kicks in both guilt and that you are not assuming a certain answer and want a real answer.

I have one other "problem". At which point does the exchange stop? I send out an appointment request. They respond with a time. I respond that the time is OK. They already stated that the time is OK. Should they respond anyway - "Got it, thanks"? Do I then respond with, "Got it, thanks," again?

In person, I think some of this is non-verbal, a head nod or look in the eyes. No wonder there used to be etiquette rules for these exchanges.

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Andrea, do you think someone might send a text or email when they're simultaneously assuming the answer and don't really want you to respond? Do you do that?