Over the last few weeks I have been using various networking platforms to find out how people feel about or deal with those people that seem to have a reputation for not answering messages.

I was most interested with the people who have a reputation rather than the one offs, however I received a lot of interesting feedback.

I am talking here about texts, emails or even IM/DMs. The sort of people that when you’re typing the message, you already wonder just how long it is going to take them to respond. You question why you even bother, but you carry on any way.

I believe that I am good at getting back to people. On the whole I reply to messages almost immediately. I have the tools to do so and I use them effectively. Therefore, I find it really hard to deal with people that do not get back to me within a reasonable time.

A reasonable time obviously depends on the question you’re asking. But regardless of whether I am booking a taxi or asking for a detailed assessment of the tax laws surrounding cross border supply of goods and services, I do expect to get a confirmation that the other person is dealing with my enquiry and offer a time/date when they will get back to me with the full answer.

I have heard so many stories lately, where friends and colleagues have tried to give work to a supplier and the supplier has just not got back to them. The customer has to chase the supplier to give them work. Emails unanswered, no response to texts, voice mail messages left and still no response.

You would reasonably say, “Go to another supplier.”

I did, and it was the same.

The most interesting reply I received to my request for views on this subject was “As a good communicator, it is up to the sender to know that the person receiving the message has seen it and that they are dealing with it.” Now this was interesting to me, because I wasn’t quite sure how this worked and it also came from someone I consider to be a professional, but a bad communicator.

What this person believes, is that the onus is on the sender, the communicator, and not on the receiver. I asked how this works in practice, because if you are not face to face how can you tell that they have received it and understood the message? There may be a technical indication, like the word “read” next to the message, but this does not mean that they have actually read it and understood it. How can I tell that they are dealing with it, if I cannot see it and they haven’t told me?

Their answer was, “You should trust them.”

I do not subscribe to this theory at all. Until then it didn’t even occur to me that a logical person, a professional, would even think this. But it is a good insight in to the mind of a person I consider to be a terrible communicator.

My tips are:

  • Not to let the lack of response get to you.
  • To have the courage explain to someone, their lack of communication is having a negative effect on you and your ability to work efficiently.
  • Ask them to help you by letting you know that they have the message and when to expect a response.
  • Ask them what is the best way to get hold of them in the future?
  • If you are still frustrated, write a blog or an article, like me J

Recently I have stopped working with someone because they were a poor communicator. I have also cancelled job interviews with applicants because they were so bad at getting back to me. If they are like that before a job interview, what would they be like with a client?

Perhaps I expect too much, maybe I am impatient, perhaps in reality I find it hard to see other people’s situations.

I am sure that there are other ideas and I would be happy to hear them. I am still reading through the many replies I have received so far.

Oliver Tulett