Day 127: Reasons why somebody hasn’t e-mailed you back yet

Somebody wonderful I know, named Mia, recently said to me, “You know what, Ann?  I’ve realized something. I’m not the only one who doesn’t respond to e-mails.”  And that clicked with something I had been thinking about.

In every relationship involving a back-and-forth communication (which would include every friggin’ relationship), one person is waiting for a response from another person.

In every relationship, at any particular point in time, one person is waiting for a response (and  is perhaps wondering what the wait means) and the other person hasn’t responded yet (and is perhaps feeling guilty about that).

That, ladies and gentlemen, leads us to this:

Reasons Why Somebody Hasn’t E-mailed (or called or texted or otherwise contacted) You Back Yet
by Ann
  1. They* are waiting until they get enough space in their lives, so they can give you the time you deserve and a response they think is worthwhile.
  2. They responded to you by THINKING what they wanted to say, and then confused that with sending an actual e-mail.
  3. There is some task required or some information they need before they can respond to you effectively.
  4. They have some complicated feelings about you and may be waiting for those to resolve.
  5. They tend to respond more quickly to the people they are worried about, and they are not worried about you.
  6. While they are waiting for the right time to respond, they become overwhelmed by having to juggle too many priorities, and they lose track of things.
  7. They believe you don’t need a response from them.
  8. They took in what you communicated, appreciated it, and moved on.
  9. They don’t think they’re important to you, thus assuming you won’t care whether or not they respond.
  10. You’re not  important enough to them.

If you’re like me (and a lot of other people I know), you might assume the reason is that last one (because that would be your worst fear, people).

Look at all those other possibilities, though! Chances are that the last reason is NOT the most accurate one. (Although it could be.) (Still, probably less often than you think.)

Can you think of other helpful reasons  to include in this list?  Are there some other reasons why YOU might not respond back to somebody in your life?

Thanks to Mia and all the other people in my life who helped me think about this post. And thanks to you, for reading.

* For you grammar fans out there, I am preferring to use “they” instead of “he or she.”  Feel free to protest that decision; I would be delighted to read what you have to say about that.
Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

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25 thoughts on “Day 127: Reasons why somebody hasn’t e-mailed you back yet

  1. Joanne Jaeger

    Ann. Very nice and to the point and thank you for helping me feel less guilty for all the emails I have in my inbox that I haven’t responded to. Most of the time it’s just ‘I don’t feel like it’……….Or I have nothing to say. So I let them sit until I have no choice but to delete. Old news by now. I do make an effort to respond in my own time………… Have a good day! Joanne

    • Joanne, thank you so much for reading and especially for commenting. I am so glad I helped you feel less guilty — that already makes my day a good one. I appreciate all the thoughts you shared here; they helped me.

  2. Beth Berman

    Van Morrison, in a song, says “and if you haven’t heard from him, that just means he hasn’t called”.

  3. Debbie Terman

    This is an interesting list of reasons though in my opinion most non-responses are much less emotionally charged. (But maybe you were focusing on emails between people who are emotionally connected.)

    I send out zillions of emails in connection with my volunteer work. These are to people who I actually know and interact with frequently (as opposed to informational newsletters or promotional items, which we all get from time to time from non-profits). Other reasons I’ve heard from people who don’t respond: (a) they didn’t understand that I expected a reply, (b) “I don’t check my email very often; I use FaceBook [or texting or some other application], (c) they’ve become overwhelmed by the speed and magnitude of daily life and can’t keep up with it all (similar to your #6), (d) an unexpected family crisis comes up which takes all their time and energy, (e) they were on vacation.

    • Thanks for that perspective, Debbie. I so appreciate that you are reading and I find your comments really illuminating.

  4. I’m going to go ahead and add “pure laziness” to the list. I will often go days without responding to emails, even emails I WANT to reply to, out of good ol’ unadulterated laziness.

    • Thanks for commenting, Orange Steamboat. I have a question for you, though. Does it help to think of (and label) yourself as “lazy”? All I know is that it doesn’t help me when I do that (and I used to do that, a lot more).

      I read your follow-up comment, Orange Steamboat, to what I wrote in the above paragraph, and I hear that what you are doing is working for you, right now — which I respect. Thank you, so much, for posting again.

      And I read this post of yours, which I found very helpful.

      • It certainly doesn’t help, but it is the truth. I’ve stopped denying it and started working on it. I think it hurts to call yourself lazy if you’re using it as an excuse and berating, but it also hurts to deny it. Acknowledge, work on it, and move on, in my humble opinion.

  5. I’ll add one. You got picked up by Spam! I’ve had emails go this way before. Sometimes it’s life’s giant law of stuff goes to the wrong pot. 🙂 Great Post.

    • Hey! Thanks so much for the compliment. (The compliment almost caused me to NOT respond to this post.) (I don’t know about anybody else reading out there, but I have some trouble accepting compliments.) (I’m working on it.)

  6. Joanne Jaeger

    This is the honest truth. I love to get email from friends. I love to get Xmas cards from friends too. But do I send Xmas or Holiday cards back to them? NO. It’s not that I don’t want to because the sentiment I read is so touching. I just don’t do it like they can read my mind and know that I wish them a happy Holiday, Birthday etc. I really don’t know WHAT stops me because I wish them the same and hope they are all mind readers and know what I’m thinking. Does this make sense to anyone?

    • It makes sense to me, Joanne. My guess is that certain people DO know what you’re thinking in this situation and other people (who have their own insecurities) DON’T. The latter group might need the reassurance of hearing back. Maybe you could check it out with them! (Ask them if you’re not answering back gets in the way of that relationship. (That’s an “antidote” called Reality Testing.) But you don’t HAVE to use reality testing, Joanne. Remember that other people have the responsibility to let you know how they are feeling. You are not responsible for other people’s feelings. But, if a relationship is really important to you, it wouldn’t hurt to check things out with them.

      Does this make sense to anyone?

      Joanne, I so appreciate (and am grateful for) your comments here.

  7. Jeff Guy

    Ann – found your list of reasons to be very comprehensive and likely representing close to the maximum potential for probabilities. The ONE addition to the list of reasons that I could come up with (that surfaced instantly out of my intuition after reading your list) was someone perhaps trying to mess with your head. This possible, though far flung, reason takes the “fear of not being important enough” to a new level by making the “fear of being important enough to have someone mess with your head” the
    greater of two (2) evils. Someone else suggested LAZINESS which I find to be the most benign reason for someone failing to get back to someone; I say benign meaning that THEIR condition of laziness puts the onus and the “blame” on them instead of having it be something lacking in you. Interesting topic for a thought provocation or two. Nice to see you (albeit briefly) in front of Darlene’s house the other day. It’s amazing how therapeutic these reunion committee meetings can be! Jeff Guy

    • Jeff! I continue to be so grateful to encounter you — here and elsewhere. Thanks for all you bring, everywhere.

      • Jeff, another thing: It was amazing to see your comment appear about the same time that I was returning to this post this morning — to add a 10th (and final, I believe) reason to my list. Of course, I welcome anybody adding more reasons of their own, at any point.

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  12. Sarah

    Thanks for this post. I was hesitating to google this question, “why hasn’t he emailed me back?” in the fear that the answer will be “because he is not interested” and I didnt want to see that. After reading this, I am thinking of all the other possible reasons now. Maybe after a few days, it will be that “he is not interested” answer but its too soon right now to think that.
    I think that if your email contains a few obvious questions you need answers to, then if the other person doesn’t reply, it becomes obvious that they are trying to either avoid it, being lazy or still thinking about it. But if the email is just a small plain email with no clear questions, then it is easy for people, like me, to smile and forget about it or think that the reply isn’t necessary.

    • I would agree, Sarah. As I write this, I am waiting to hear back, by email, from a couple of people. At the same time, I get this wonderful, unexpected message from you! Communication holds lots of surprises, doesn’t it?

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  14. andrea

    i just wanted to thank you for this list. it is so much more subtle than a black-or-white #10 (or a variation) explanation that i have found in other searches to help me deal with waiting for a reply to a personal email to a new person i started dating. thank you.

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