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Répondez s'il vous plaît

Outlook once changed the name of one of my clients to “Manhood”. I saw it as I hit send and then I landed in embarrassment hell with a resounding thud. Since then I have been super cautious about my responses. And I've paid close attention to the innovative ways my digital compatriots have used their signature block to make up for accidental mangling of words.

We all make mistakes and humor is certainly an apt way to deal with a crisis. What befuddles me is when people do not respond at all.

Years ago, I had a row with a direct report after he said, “You didn’t ask a question so I had nothing to respond to!” After tempers calmed, he agreed to respond to all emails or bear my wrath on a daily basis. He now works for a global behemoth and I like to think his transition was made possible by prompt replies to emails, even those that didn't ask him a question.

When my colleagues, friends, or family do not respond, I am truly stumped. It's not like I am trying to solicit their money. In an overwhelming majority of cases, I am simply keeping them in the loop on an event that impacts us both, sometimes I ask a related question or two. The same person that normally follows up with a "Fine" or a "Thanks" on a phone call returns crickets in email.

Long ago I told my kids, "Dudes, give me digital silence and I will show you what the inside of hell feels like."

I consider my own email, text, and whatsapp habits safely "hygienic". I try my best to respond as soon as I can because it is efficient. It closes the loop. It assures the sender that I got the message. Conversely, a reply tells me that my words didn’t vanish into ether. It also acknowledges my effort. On the rarest of occasions when I choose not to respond, it's because "this does not deserve a reply" is an incredibly powerful tool.

I will admit that Evites give me the heebee jeebies. It starts with an innocuous "you are invited" and quickly morphs into: sign up for free, reminder to respond, a confirmation, send a gift, x more days, and finally, upload pictures of the party. You can run but you can't hide from this beast.

I try to email or text when needed, not frivolously. In return, if your response is somewhat congruent to the level of detail I provided, you make me want to dance in sheer joy. A long email that solicits a cryptic “OK” is better than nothing but it leaves me wanting more. And as I grow older, silence makes me profoundly sad.

I know what you are going to say - I have unresolved issues, lots of them. I couldn't agree more! For now, I am going to post this in my signature block and keep moving forward.

Répondez s'il vous plaît or imagonna cry

And if you don't know this already, I am hellishly scary when I cry. So, when I email or ping do reply...for your own sanity.

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