Failure to Respond


Are you someone who fails to respond?  Not to cold-calls or blind solicitations, but rather to someone you contacted first?  I am curious what is causing you to behave in that manner?  Do you realize that when you reach out to someone else, they must spend time and energy to respond?  Your own lack of responsiveness when they reply to you creates more work for that person, who wonders if their message was actually delivered or tries another way to reach you, thus expending even more time and energy.  If you contact someone and then change your mind, it would seem to be common courtesy to let them know.  You could send a quick note or leave a voice mail message, anything that would enable the other person to take you off of their list of things to do.

Vistage is not for everyone, so I know that many of the people I speak with will not be a good fit for our organization.  However, I want to help people and will always try to respond in a timely manner when someone reaches out to me.  However, when they fail to respond to my offer to answer any of their questions or provide them with information, it becomes very frustrating.  I am left alternating between irritation, concern for their well-being, and curiosity as to why they reached out to me in the first place.

If you read this and realize you have been unresponsive to others, it’s not too late to change your behavior.  Just let them know you resolved the situation and no longer need their assistance.  Display some no-longer-so-common courtesy!

4 thoughts on “Failure to Respond

  1. Exactly!

    At the conclusion of my Fully Alive Leadership keynotes and workshops (many for TEC/Vistage groups) I offer a feedback form, which includes an option to have me contact that person to help their company or another organization they can refer. I’m diligent in following up, but well over 90% of my efforts are an immediate dead end. Most of those requesting that I contact them don’t answer their phone and they don’t respond to a voice mail. I’ve tried using text messages and emails in hopes of making contact, but the result is the same.

    Note that I’m not making cold calls. These are people who asked me to contact them. What’s going on?

    I’ve come up with two possible explanations, both conjectures. First, I’m imagining that they are interested and excited at the end of my program, but by the time their phone rings with my ID on it, even if it’s the next day, their excitement has cooled, so they no longer want to talk. My second guess at the no-response behavior is more troubling.

    I’m thinking that there has been a cultural shift, such that people who are afraid to say”no” to someone can avoid the conversation by blowing off the call, the text, the email and the person. I once heard a Millennial say that in her not answering someone’s calls and voice messages that sooner or later her would, “get the message.”

    Which is true. And inconsiderate, rude, disrespectful and cowardly. And this behavior is not constrained to Millennials; it spans all generations.

    My interpretations are just that. They are not based upon scientific study. Nevertheless, when I’ve mentioned this behavior to others, all have agreed that this is what they see.

    Which leaves us with this: That’s life. Deal with it.

    • Thanks, Jack. Somehow it’s reassuring that it isn’t just me. I would love to hear from people who have actually done this to others to gain insight into their thought process.

  2. I think your concern touches on 2 things: relationship confrontation avoidance and information overload.

    Now more than ever, we feel like we need to be a part of everything then get overwhelmed and drop things that are not compelling. And its easier to hit Delete than to craft a polite “No Thank You” message.

    Every time you start a conversation with someone, its a potential new relationship. There is a lot of information out there about how to start conversations (i.e. potential relationships) but not in how the end them.

    Not responding avoids the confrontation of ending a potential relationship. There is seemingly no consequence to not responding if we don’t have an on-going relationship. Even back in the day before email, you might have sent a Thank You note to a friend, relative or business acquaintance, but maybe not to someone you didn’t expect to see again.

    I learned the value of not responding when I worked in an organization that had political connections. By not responding to emails, voice mails and not even making eye contact at meetings sometimes, you are trying to avoid the trap of “I spoke with…” or “I’ve been in contact with…”. By not responding, its easier to avoid developing a relationship that you might not want and/or having your responses misinterpreted.

    If you feel like you need feedback or closure for each response, i.e. potential relationship, maybe when you respond to someone after their first reaching out to you, you can give them options for responding that avoid the relationship confrontation issues. Like response buttons for “Hey – that’s great! I’d like to hear more” or “Thanks but I’m not ready to proceed at this time. Please contact me at a later date.” or “Thanks for the info. I’ll contact you if I have any further questions.”

    By letting people know what response options you are ok with, i.e. wording the choices yourself and giving people the “out” to avoid confrontation, I would expect you would get better feedback, as well as getting some closure and cutting down on your follow-up time.

    You might even help train people so they know the words to use so they are more comfortable responding in future situations. That would help everybody.

    • Thanks, Pam. I agree that it is always best to provide people with options. Interestingly we recently held where we provided each person with a “guest interest feedback form”. One of the options on the form was “No, I am not interested at this time”. They did not need to provide an explanation, and quite a few people selected that option. I emceed the event and mentioned 4 different times that if they were not interested to please check that “no” box as it helps us know whether or not they would like us to follow up with them. To date there are still 6 attendees who marked the box that said, “Yes I am interested in learning more. Please have someone contact me.” who have not responded to voicemail or email follow up. Those are the ones that are frustrating!

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