There’s a growing trend in our culture that it’s perfectly acceptable to ignore emails, phone calls, or Facebook messages from people who are inquiring of our assistance. I don’t know if it’s a generational thing or a result of our society’s burden with busyness (and thus forgetfulness!), but I want to plead the case that it’s still quite important to acknowledge anyone who takes the time to reach out to you.
Before I started DoSayGive, I reached out to several people (friends of friends and acquaintances) to inquire about possible part-time jobs and also to ask for some advice on starting DoSayGive. But of the six people I reached out to, only two people responded back to me. The other four: radio silence.
Honestly, it was quite shocking and hurtful. After all, they weren’t just random people I found on Linked In (even if they were, it would still be rude!). I mentioned my frustration to a few friends and they said they, too, had experienced the same thing. So I thought it would be worthwhile to do a little refresher on the etiquette of responding to someone. It is simply a matter of respect for others to respond, even if they have nothing to offer us in return.
Here are a few tips:
-Always respond within 24 hours.
When my husband started his first job out of college, his dad gave him this great advice. Even if you don’t want to respond, or even if that person calling is terribly annoying, that one day rule of thumb will keep your response timely and polite. When I don’t respond within 24 hours, I am more likely to a) forget about that email or b) feel guilty for my tardy response and thus not respond at all!
-If someone is looking for a job or a connection, always respond, even if you can’t help.
My jewelry designer sister constantly gets emails from college girls wanting to intern in the summer. It would be so easy to ignore those emails, but she says she responds to each and every one. If someone emails you a similar request, here’s an example of a simple two sentence email you can use to respond.
Thank you so much for your interest in my company. I am sincerely flattered. Unfortunately, I don’t currently have any need for (fill in job), but if something changes, I will definitely keep you in mind.
Thank you again for contacting me.
See, so easy and literally takes two minutes to compose.
-Remember the people who helped you and pay it forward.
It takes a lot of courage for a 20-something to call someone much older and ask for advice. My husband took advantage of all my dad’s friends and businesses associates when he was starting out in the finance world. Each and every one of my dad’s friends that he called took the time to talk to my 22-year-old husband, gave him advice, and even followed up with him to see how he was doing months later.
In fact, one of my dad’s business school friends actually became quite a mentor to my husband over the years. He didn’t have to help Justin, but he did. One time Justin needed important business advice and so he called Mike, who answered the phone ever though he was visiting the Taj Mahal. Mike kindly stepped aside to give Justin some quick words of wisdom and Justin was eternally grateful.
It meant so much to Justin to have someone like this and so now he always takes phone calls from young guys that are just starting out and needing advice. He really takes joy in helping others because he is so appreciative of the men who helped him along the way.
-People remember, so always do the right thing.
The person you ignore today may be your boss or your daughter’s best friend’s mother in 10 years. People will remember and appreciate your gracious nature, even if you can’t help them in the way they wanted or needed. (And they will also remember if you ignored them or treated them disrespectfully!)
-Better late than never.
Someone recently left me a message asking me something. I erased the message, thinking I would call her later that day in the carpool line (my usual time to return calls!). But, of course, I forgot. And since it wasn’t a person I see often, I didn’t remember until a month later! Of course, I felt horrible. I debated if I should even call her back because I was so embarrassed. But I did. And I apologized profusely for not responding earlier (and I felt so much better for it!)
If you do forget to respond to someone, it is never too late to reply when you do remember. Apologize and all will be forgiven.
-And if you are on the asking side, sometimes a follow-up email after radio silence is a good idea.
Perhaps you had the wrong email or phone number. Or perhaps the person simply forgot to respond, but really wanted to, and will be so appreciative for your second attempt at reaching out (and will probably be all the more helpful;).
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