If I need to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to do it? Call you? Text you? Send you an email? In today’s business world, email is king. Younger generations are moving farther and farther away from using the phone to conduct business. Texts are efficient but leave a lot to be desired. Email is instant, free and can be a detailed plan or a short note.
Yet more and more emails go unanswered. I know this is a universal experience. You send off an email with a request, pitch or some follow-up information, and the person never responds. Your email has disappeared into the black hole of the internet. You’re left feeling confused, annoyed and without the answers you were looking for…
This is a bad habit we are all guilty of. Ignoring email has become such a habit (and a bad one) that even the New York Times has written about this trend of ‘email silence.’ It’s time to break this habit, once and for all.
Ignoring any email that comes to your inbox is unprofessional at best, and damaging at worst. Think about what your silence conveys. You haven’t given a firm yes or no to the requests you receive. You haven’t provided any information for anything. All you’ve done is created a dead end. Who is this helping?
You could be ignoring a friend of a friend or someone you met at a networking event two weeks ago. Ignoring emails is letting opportunity slip through your fingers. If someone reaches out and you simply delete it, you are shutting down opportunity.
While unanswered emails are often the result of inbox overload, the answer doesn’t lie in silence. The uncertainty you create with your silence will almost definitely lead to another inquiry about said silence coming your way.
Rather than click delete or continue to ignore someone, let’s step back and look at the bigger picture. Why are you ignoring this email? For most people, the answer is either
-no time to answer in the moment
-you want to say no but don’t want to be rude
-quickly scanning and then promptly forgetting about it
If you are falling prey to the first reason, not enough time, find a time of day to devote solely to your email. Some people like to do it first thing in the morning. Sit down and give 30 or 45 minutes to your inbox. Reply to every email there, even if it’s just a one liner to say you’ll get back to them with more details later. A quick note goes a long way.
If you are struggling with wanting to say no but feeling guilty about it, I have three words for you: Get Over It. We are operating in the business world. Our time and resources are finite, just like everyone else’s. Say no, give your regrets or a reason for the no, and move on. A firm ‘no’ is a million times better than being ignored. People will appreciate you for your answer, rather than resenting you for leaving them uncertain about what your silence means.
Finally, if you are scanning and forgetting about the email, try developing a new habit. Only read emails when you have a moment to digest and respond. If you have a crazy morning and know that you won’t be able to write a proper reply, leave the email unread. Come back to it when you have time and respond then.
Don’t allow your inbox to fill up with unanswered emails. You are better than that! Take the time to develop new email habits and I promise it will have a positive effect on your business…and your conscience…