No response IS a response!

May 5, 2011

Too busy to return your calls? Consider how not taking 1 minute now can cause harm to your reputation in the future. Read on to learn more…

By Susan Dooley, April 20, 2011

Isn’t the courtesy of a return phone call just proper business etiquette? Unfortunately not in today’s business world. Smart phones, texting, email, and voice mail mean it’s easier than ever to avoid human interaction.

Let’s stop right here and acknowledge that there are often very good reasons why a return call may fall through the cracks. Possibilities include:

  1. I didn’t get the message
  2. I’m busy now but intend to call you later
  3. I’m gathering information to make our conversation more meaningful
  4. I’m on vacation
  5. I’m ill and out of my office for an undetermined period of time

All valid reasons, certainly. However, there’s a risk that the person feeling “snubbed” by the offender may draw a completely different, and inaccurate, conclusion, such as:

  1. This is not a top priority to you
  2. You’re not a professional
  3. You’re a procrastinator
  4. You don’t have the answer
  5. I’m not important to you
  6. You’re disorganized
  7. You can’t be counted on
  8. You’re hiding
  9. You have bad news, but are not strong enough to communicate it to me

Yikes! No professional would want to be labeled with these character attributes. Unfortunately, the wrong interpretation by the right person can harm business relationships and even careers.

So what’s a person to do? Return the call. Even if it’s just a 30-second conversation, return the call.

Early on in my career, I was in a conversation with the CEO of my company when he abruptly interrupted and said, “Susan, I don’t have time to talk about this now, but you’re important to me. Let’s schedule a time to get together when I can really focus on you.” He pulled out his calendar, scheduled the appointment, honored that time slot, and gave me his undivided attention. I was not at all offended, and learned a great lesson on leadership that day.

For phone calls or e-mail, consider a quick response like: “Phil – I got your message. I’m swamped at the moment, but intend to call back by the 15th. I call this “managing expectations,” and I believe it’s what separates the best from the rest. You don’t have to have “the answer,” you don’t have to invest a tremendous amount of time. Just take a moment and return the call. The respect you earn in the eyes of others – even if you don’t say what they want to hear, is priceless.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of the Bay Area, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in the Bay Area. We would love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.

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3 Responses to No response IS a response!

  1. Nathan Czubaj on May 19, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    The key is to consider others even when we are busy.  When we consistently think about other people we will actually think about the impact of our actions, and inactions, such as not responding to a call, email or even not responding in a conversation.  

    • Sundeep Bodhankar on June 14, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      A quick response to the call may sometimes offend your ongoing engagements during an important meeting but will certainly give an impact of responsiveness.

      It is often advised to keep the phones switched off but the action is same if put under silent/sleep mode. Well, then is becomes individual prerogative to respond in such cases..

    • Corey on November 10, 2011 at 7:29 pm

      Thanks for the response Nathan – hope all is well my friend


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