The benefits (and predicaments) of non-response.


Today is one of those days (actually this is one of those weeks) that I feel like I could spend my whole time just doing emails and meetings and I’d still not make a dent on the stuff that needs to get done (and that in all honesty, I actually want to do.) Sometimes, I catch myself wondering how really important people do it– think about all the emails they must get!– and then I realize that those people generally have assistants to plan their lives out for them. Go figure.

Coming into this year, I became very intentional about how I’d handle email. My strategy has been to think very critically about the emails that need to be responded to and responding only to those that require it. But this, I’ve come to realize, has its trade-offs. For example, if someone emails me saying they can’t make it for a meeting, it’s read and deleted. If I responded to every email about a scheduling conflict, I’d go crazy. But that does mean that the person on the other end doesn’t get the reassuring “oh, that’s totally fine– thanks for telling me” they’d get if they told me in person. Left unsaid, I’ve learned that non-response can drive people crazy. I get that. I worry that sometimes people might perceive curt, short emails (or in this case, no email at all) as indicative of my being upset or angry that they can’t make something when in reality, I’m on an email cleanse and am trying to be rather intentional about those things that get responded to.

It’s been an exercise in self-restraint, don’t get me wrong. The amount of emails I get every day borders on ludicrous. The amount of words I’d type if I responded with my all to every single mail would mean I’d get by writing papers (and I mean papers) of responses, in effect having a conversation with my computer– not a person.

And then there’s the other thing about this kind of “responsiveness.” It has the effect of me being more plugged in to my headset and simultaneously flowing texting chains than the actual world around me.  In effect, it’s a kind of responsiveness that renders me not responsive at all– non-responsive that is to the things that really, really matter.

It’s a policy for myself that I worry sometimes makes me seem less accessible, less forgiving. But I’ve reconciled with it in this way: those people who understand me most, whose friendships I value highly– they get it. They understand that I’d rather have a conversation with them in person rather than via typed text.

Just some thoughts as we tackle this week– Happy Monday, sweet readers!


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