Last night, I wrote a Facebook post out of frustration at not being able to reach a few colleagues and potential business partners after repeated attempts. I was blown away that these people were able to completely ignore my communications, and I shared my reaction to it.
Upon venting my frustration on Facebook, I received close to a hundred responses in just a few hours; mostly from people agreeing with me that such behavior is rude and uncalled for. Others wrote in defense of the non-responders. Then, there were several people who wrote with a fairly balanced and untriggered view of the whole thing.
Anyway, the robust dialogue made me want to spend more time on the topic and see if I could shed some light. I think most of the responses (my own included) were thoughtful, but also lacked a full appreciation for the whole issue and its effect. So, here we go…
What’s reasonable to expect?
One person wrote back saying that he doesn’t walk around glued to his phone or computer, and people shouldn’t expect him to always be there or respond immediately. I agree. We all lead busy lives, and we all appreciate that to be true of others. I think the answer is to pick a rule and live by it. For me, that rule is The 24 hour rule. If someone reaches out to me, I’m committed to giving them some kind of response within 24 hours.
What’s a reasonable response?
It doesn’t matter how long your response is. If you write back to someone who’s requesting your attention and simply say, “Got your message. Can’t talk now. When is good for you next week?” you’re covered. Just don’t let people think you’re ignoring them.
But I’m really busy…
So are Apple and eBay…but when you contact them, they always respond within 24 hours. If you’re too busy to do that, it’s time to hire a support person.
People understand I’m doing the best I can…
No, they don’t. I used to fool myself into believing that my fame was a cushion I could use against responsibility. I really thought that people understood how busy I was and had no judgments about my poor response time. Turns out, I was wrong. They were definitely miffed.
If you aren’t getting back to people, they DON’T think you’re just too busy. They think you don’t value them. And, they’re judging you. They’re seeing you as uncaring, self-important, and rude. If you don’t believe me, go back and read some of the hundred Facebook posts on this topic.
People shouldn’t take it personally…
You’re right, they shouldn’t. But after 30 years of meditation practice designed to help me let things go, I still get tripped up by this behavior. I can hear anything from somebody and accept it. But silence is in a different category. I can read all sorts of things into it. They don’t like me. They don’t respect me. They’re out of touch with what it means to be human and caring. They’re trying to send me a message, but I don’t know what it is. And on, and on, and on.
Silence in this context is cruelty. You’re forcing others to make assumptions on your behalf, hoping their assumption is that you’re too busy but that you still care. But, you’re leaving them to suffer through the more human emotions of rejection and frustration.
Well, that’s their problem…
OK, if you want to play it that way, you can. But understand that there are consequences. Remember the Golden Rule? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. How do you expect you’ll be treated by others when it’s your turn to reach out? As the Buddhists say, Karma is a bitch!
How do I change this behavior?
Make a commitment. Your word is the most powerful thing you have. Once it’s been made strong by integrity, what you say just begins to come true. My commitment is to be there for those in need. I live by it and will continue to do so until the day I die. This week alone, I’ve had about ten people who are enrolled in one of my programs reach out to me, and TO THEIR SHOCK, I called them all back. Some got to spend up to an hour on the phone with me. Others got a quick response or an idea of where to turn for the answers they sought.
Where did that time come from? After all, I’m on national stages over 100 times per year, I write at least 50 articles every year, I have over 20,000 fans worldwide, and I have a life beyond all that. The answer is that I created it out of intention. My intention is to be there, so I am. Somehow the time appears.
So, what’s the bottom line?
Be a mensch! That’s a Yiddish word meaning a person of character. Do the right thing. Don’t let yourself off the hook and assume everyone understands your constraints. They don’t understand, and they really don’t care. Give people what they want and need, and you’ll be rewarded in ways unimagined.
Find a system that frees you up and still allows you to be responsive. For example, Dana Wilde, a top name in the network marketing world, just responded to my email saying, “Hey Steve, super busy, but I’d love to catch up. Can you use this link (to her scheduling software) to pick a time I’m available, and we can talk then?”
How did that make me feel? Exactly the opposite way I’ve been made to feel this week by those other people who were “too busy” for me. Instead, Dana’s ten word email (how long did that take her?) made me feel appreciated, respected, cherished, and acknowledged.
So, how do you want to make people feel? Decide that and then have your actions support that decision. If the message you want to send is, I’m too busy for you, do nothing. But if you want to make people feel important rather than making yourself seem self-important, it only takes a few words to break the silence (even if they’re, “Sorry, too burned out to respond now. Later?”)
What do you think? Please respond, and guess what, I’ll do the same!