I used to think everyone wanted to know more about “productive communication”. People are only interested in productive communication in the areas of life where they have some commitment.
That seems obvious now, but I didn’t always know how to find out about people’s commitments. Here’s my latest method: look at how long it takes them to respond to an email communication or a phone message. Try sending an email or leaving a phone message inviting someone to join you at an event, go out for dinner, or get back to you with a date and time they can meet with you. Be sure to include something about the purpose of the occasion, and make it friendly-sounding. Then start counting.
Within 24 hours? They have a commitment to something in your invitation. Two days? They were out of town, busy hosting their in-laws, or lost their smartphone. More than two days? They’re trying to think up a way to get your emails out of their inbox without telling too big a lie. Or they don’t have high-tech things like phone answering machines or email capability. In either case, quit inviting them to do things.
I speak from experience here – I’ve been on both ends of this situation. I am working to make my communications clearer now:
- Add a note about when I’d like to hear back if they do have an interest in my request or offer;
- Add a note about how it’s OK not to respond if they’re not interested in pursuing this now; and
- Make sure I let them know what I’m planning to do in either case, and that I value our relationship no matter what they choose to do now.
It’s simple etiquette, and it’s already saving time – I’m not waiting for people anymore. Plus I’m learning more about the gap between what people say they are committed to and what they will actually take action on. Useful information in updating my contact records.