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How to Network With Busy People – Part 8

This is a continuation of the “How to Network With Busy People” series. The first post in the series can be found here.

Continuing on with our tips…

Don’t misinterpret short replies.

Busy people often send very curt replies to emails they receive. Don’t misinterpret one-line replies like "Fine, let’s do it," "No thanks," "Not interested," or "Thanks. :)" as being a sign of rudeness or lack of caring.

Minimalist replies are common in the business world. Consider them a sign of efficiency, not disrespect. Your message may be one of dozens being batch-processed. The fact that you got a reply at all means the other person considered your message worthy of a response.

If you write back to complain, you become an annoyance. Don’t rant about getting short replies. That’s very low class.

Email simply isn’t the right medium for long-windedness. It’s not the right medium for relationship building. If you want to build relationships, then arrange to meet in person when possible, else by phone. If you spend more than a few minutes typing an email, you really should be picking up the phone instead.

If you send me a 1,000-word email and get a one-sentence reply in response, don’t interpret it to mean that I didn’t care about what you had to say. A more accurate interpretation is that I don’t think a longer reply is a good use of my time, given all the other messages I have to process. Another possibility is that I’m not resonating with your choice of medium. You may be using the wrong channel for what you’re trying to convey.

Sometimes people try to use email to communicate things that don’t translate well to plain text. The camel that gets passed through the eye of a needle doesn’t much resemble a camel on the other side. It’s just a bloody mess of goop.

If you’re trying to compress your whole life story into an email, you’re making a mistake. Your story will be robbed of its essence. Your points won’t be conveyed. The other person grimaces when they see a wall of text. If you want to write so much, either write it in your journal, or become a blogger. 🙂

Wait before replying.

If you do get an email response from a busy person, don’t reply back immediately unless you have a really good reason for doing so. Otherwise you may inadvertently annoy the other person. Another possibility is that you’ll be perceived as being too needy or eager.

I suggest you wait at least 12-24 hours before you reply back.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but look at it from the busy person’s perspective. Every day they have a lot of new communication to process. When they process email, they’re anxious to empty their inbox and move on to the next task. For a busy person, it feels great to have an empty inbox, if only for a moment. If you try to email them back and forth two or more times on a given day, they may begin to perceive you as a potential time drain, if only because you consumed a larger slice of their attention that day than their other contacts did. Suddenly you cross an invisible threshold, and they stop replying to you altogether.

The last thing a busy person needs is more urgency. Delivering a rapid response positions your communication as urgent, and busy people know that urgent matters are seldom important. You don’t want a busy person to think of your communication as a candidate for urgency-based processing. It’s better to communicate at a more gradual pace, so you end up in the important bin instead of the urgent one.

Be patient, not over-eager. Let the busy person gradually warm up to you. Work your way in with a few brief, snappy contacts over a period of several days if you can swing it.

The exception is when it’s really important to speed things along, such as if you’re in the process of finalizing a deal before the weekend. With experience you will get a feel for when it’s reasonable to email someone back right away and when it’s wiser to incubate your replies.

To be continued…

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