Time of no reply
June 1, 2006 8:16 AM   Subscribe

How do you deal with the frustration of waiting for a reply and never getting one? Is there a helpful mantra or attitude adjustment or something?

I happen to be a reliable person; I return email and phone calls pretty promptly. But the majority of my business contacts, and friends, people I need to hear from and people I'd just like to hear from, have an annoying tendency to not write back, for months at a time. Several of my friendships seem to depend on me initiating every plan. Six months ago I sent in an application for a job I'm absurdly qualified for -- not overqualified, just exactly qualified, one of the very few people in the world with experience in precisely that field -- and there's been no response. Last month I noticed they had reposted the job ad, so I wrote to HR politely asking if they had ever gotten my application. No response. I find that frustrating.

I've checked my mail server settings and I'm pretty sure I'm not missing or junking messages. I don't think the messages I send are pushy or offputting. Sometimes I keep a running list of the people I'm waiting to hear back from, and it hovers around 20. I know people are busy, and I know it's pointless to hope they'll change. I don't take it personally, and I try to put it out of my mind, but whenever I get grumpy one of the main irk-sources is how unreliable the rest of the world seems to be! I'm not an uptight person -- do I sound crazy? How does everyone else deal with this?

[I know, it would be hilarious if this question went unanswered.]
posted by Eater to Human Relations (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'll give you a prompt answer: you need to phone more and mail less. When you send an e-mail, you're asking to be ignored.
posted by NekulturnY at 8:44 AM on June 1, 2006

Yeah, dude, phone. Use the phone.
posted by mkultra at 8:45 AM on June 1, 2006

[I know, it would be hilarious if this question went unanswered.]

Oh I bet that won't happen :)

For the job, you should try calling the HR office.

For friends and business contacts, maybe you could simply use a mobile phone? Even only for text messages. They're as unobtrusive as email but much harder to postpone replying to.

Or, keep using email only but make it clearer you need a reply by date x if that's the case. Having deadlines, even informal ones, can be helpful.

Apart from that I don't know what to say. I'm in the guilty category myself, I can be ridiculously late in replying to emails if they're not about work and not urgent.

One reason is I do prefer talking on the phone than writing emails. But the biggest reason is pure, unfiltered, addictive procrastination. It's just weird how forgetting and procrastinating leads to more forgetting and procrastinating.
posted by funambulist at 8:50 AM on June 1, 2006

I know some folks who only respond to things they don't want to deal with if its handed to them in paper form.

Alternatively, show up in person (I know, it's not always possible). Even non-responsive types are good at responding when you're (politely) in their face.
posted by sablazo at 8:51 AM on June 1, 2006

Like you I'm generally good at replying quickly to those with whom I want to have contact — those whom I'm avoiding are another story;-)

I go case by case. With some friendships I am very proactive about initiating contact and making plans, with others I have decided it was not worth the effort because they were simply too unreliable, with still others I just adjusted to whatever pace the other person set. If you have quite a few friends it can be nice to have this sort of mixed bag with varied dynamics. And I remind myself that if everyone got back to me the minute I emailed them it'd be pretty hard for me to keep up and then *I* would become the person who doesn't answer email that quickly;-)

In terms of the job application you mention, well, a lot of businesses don't answer applicants unless they want to interview them. It can be hard on an anxious job seeker, but the realities are that companies simply are unable or unwilling to reply to the many applications and resumes they get.

You may be taking this a little too personally. It's a busy world and people have to set priorities. You aren't always, or maybe won't even often be, on the top of the list. Other people are careless and disorganized. Others are insensitive and self-absorbed. So, concentrate your efforts on those who are most rewarding and reliable.
posted by orange swan at 8:51 AM on June 1, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks. I definitely use the phone when I can, but a lot of business communications require writing, and often I don't even have a phone number for the person I'm dealing with.
posted by Eater at 9:41 AM on June 1, 2006

A little research should get you the number for the person you need to contact. As for the HR office, resubmit your resume and cover letter. They may have lost or never received your original. Many companies at least have a form letter they send out when your application has been received. If you did not receive such a letter, assume they did not receive the application. Consider dropping off the copy instead of relying upon the postal service. Then, if you get no reply, move on to the next job.

Emails to friends on personal accounts are frequently viewed by many people as an update and not necessarily a dialogue. It is very easy to ignore personal email for a long time and then not respond to a message at all because it is so old. Rude, yeah.
posted by onhazier at 10:05 AM on June 1, 2006

Is there a helpful mantra or attitude adjustment or something?

Well, there's the Serenity Prayer of course. I'm sure you could make a secular version if you wanted. In this case I think you might find it helpful to cultivate an appreciation for the fact that you have the motivation to deal with things promptly.

You're writing good cover letters, right? As in, demonstrating that you have looked at the web site and know what the company actually does? Last time I had to review job applications, I'm not sure anyone bothered to do that.
posted by teleskiving at 10:09 AM on June 1, 2006

I'll chime in: dude, try postal mail. The telephone. Telegrams. How do you know the mail server on their end isn't blocking your mail?
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:14 AM on June 1, 2006

As someone who is very bad about responding to e-mails, I wish people would just call me. There have been times when I've thought about cancelling my e-mail account because I don't want people to think that I'm ignoring them or don't like them. I just have a hard time replying.

So, I wouldn't take it personally, and I'd call.
posted by alms at 10:32 AM on June 1, 2006

I would also find out who the hiring manager is and call them. The job of HR is to weed people out, not to find the best candidates, so your best bet is to find the manager of the group and contact them (PHONE!!!) directly. Follow - up with an email (if the conversation is good). Then call them a few days later to confirm they got your email! EVery contact for a job search should be an excuse for you to call them again.
posted by zia at 12:37 PM on June 1, 2006

Email them this song. (lyrics)
This especially good for customer service and HR people.
posted by Methylviolet at 1:57 PM on June 1, 2006

I really sympathize... I feel it's very rude not to answer an e-mail or return a phone call.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:56 AM on June 3, 2006

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