No Reply Can Be Very Meaningful

Reliance on email is now so matter-of-fact that we can forget that all communication is a two-way street -- a message received usually needs a reply. In business, this is particularly true when asking questions, making project plans, or communicating with co-workers and managers.

Missing a meeting or arriving at the wrong place or at the wrong time can occur because the sender didn’t realize that his or her message was not answered. Senders need to remember that the message may have never been received, gotten lost in a big inbox, or was simply ignored. If a formal scheduling mechanism is not available to book events, one can avoid these "no reply" problems with a quick phone call or IM.

But it’s also true that in certain cases no communication still communicates something. The absence of a reply speaks louder than words ever could, and the recipient chooses a powerful response by saying nothing at all. Interpretation is everything. Depending on the context of the flow of communication, it may indeed be that the real message is I am ignoring you, your requests, or your issues for any one of a number of reasons:

  • I am too busy to deal with it.
  • I lost/accidentally deleted it.
  • I am so put off by what you have said, I won't answer it.
  • I won't put a response in writing for fear of going "on the record."
  • My spam filter ate your message.

... Janet Asteroff (editor: Richi Jennings) 

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