Why it's normal for people not to return calls (or respond to emails)

I was listening to a webinar last night hosted by the brilliant Matt Church (I thoroughly recommend subscribing to his blog by the way, he has introduced a new format, which I think totally rocks) and he was sharing some information about our current experience of growth. Essentially, in the last 50 years, there has been exponential growth, which way 'outcurves' comfortable growth. But that's nothing compared to what we are going to experience in the next 10 years, something he refers to as hyper-growth; 

OK - so that's another blog topic in itself, but let's see how that exponential growth has affected our manners! 

50 years ago, was 1965. How do you think people communicated in business? Well even the telephone was used sparingly! Do you remember party lines? There was telex too of course, but really the main way that people communicated was by letter or office memo. That was generally typed, and I understand there were some people with nice handwriting (boy, not a job I would have landed!) who simply spent the day handwriting addresses on envelopes.

How many letters do you think someone sent on a daily basis? I couldn't find an answer to this, but I am imagining no more than ten? Remember, every letter had to be written from scratch, there were no templates!

Fast forward to today. The average number of emails sent and received is presently around 121 a day today (source 2014 to 2018 Email Statistics Report) and it's expected to rise to 140 a day in 2018. We are simply not keeping up. And I believe this affects each and every one of us.

So why do people still take things personally when their email or phone call is not returned? 

I cannot tell you the amount of times that clients have said to me 'oh I have lost that opportunity, she has been ignoring me and hasn't answered my calls/replied to my email'. Then they conveniently consider that opportunity as inactive, and never connect with the person again (nice little sabotage number going on there).

How about stopping to make it mean doom and gloom, and start having compassion for them simply being overloaded? A couple of weeks back I was raving about Nozbe, and how it has really helped me and my wonderful VA Christine keep on track with what we have to do. I have a project in there called 'waiting to hear back from' and I simply pop someone's name in there when I send them an important email or haven't managed to get through to them by phone (as a side note, I used to share the value of leaving voicemail messages in my sales workshops, but times have changed, and now I usually flick a text or email to accompany their 'missed call', just to save them the time to actually have to listen to my voicemail, and some companies like Coca Cola are even doing away with voicemail!).

Every few days, I look at that project and see who I haven't yet heard back from. Then I use my judgement to work out when to reconnect, either just forwarding the email again or ringing again (I think there is an art to this which you just master over time, to make sure you don't seem to be hounding). If I have tried a few times, with no response, I might send them a text with 'at the risk of turning into a stalker, I am reconnecting again :-)..' which usually gets a reply.

I cannot tell you the amount of times when people (usually prospects) say to me 'Thanks Laurel for persevering with me, I have been genuinely interested in connecting with you, but things are just manic right now', and it's often turned into business.

By the way, the same thing goes for friendships. I often have experience of friends not returning calls, and certainly I am guilty of that too.

Is this an example of manners not mattering any more? Well I don't think that's a particularly empowering belief! Have compassion for the exponential (and soon to be hyper!) growth that we are all experiencing, don't make it mean anything when people don't return your call/answer your email, and find a follow up system that works for you!

And just to finish off with manners, I was sharing this with someone who said they don't return calls or emails simply because those particular ones aren't important to them, or they aren't interested. I totally get that to but for correspondence that is one to one, and especially where you know them, wouldn't it be cleaner just to let them know that?!

PS I was back on the Paul Henry show yesterday talking about career choices for teenagers, click here to view! 

Posted on July 23, 2015 .