There is a person I admire very much. This person, who shall remain nameless, is bold enough to do something I simply do not have the courage to do. This person actually replies to emails, voice messages, and text messages if and only when he or she feels like it.
That is just stunningly brave behavior. In this day and age of high-speed instant communication, most people, especially me, are compelled to reply to all forms of electronic messaging as soon as humanly possible. We instinctively fear that if we don’t reply right away, the time gap between receiving and replying will itself send a message, specifically: “I don’t care about you.” Which, of course, is not the impression we want to give.
In my case, this compulsion to reply instantly is magnified by the fact that I’m in sales. The moment I receive a message, my first thought is that if I don’t reply right away, they're just going to contact my competition. You’d think after doing this for over 36 years I’d be a bit more relaxed about that aspect of my job.
On the other hand, there have been numerous times recently when I’ve received an email message, but since I was driving, I only glanced at my phone and saw that it was from one of my clients. Then literally 90 seconds later, I received a phone call from that same person, which I answered because I have a hands-free system in my car. This is what I heard: “Bill, I sent you an email, but you never replied,” to which I said, “Um, that was not even two minutes ago.” And then he said, “Yeah, but I need the technical specifications for that unit right away. So, I’ll hold.”
At that moment, this is what I thought but did not say, since I’m a good customer service person: “Seriously, dude?! I’m on the Merritt Parkway right now, on the verge of doing something that will make my car insurance premium skyrocket!! You will NOT hold, and I will get back to you when I’m damn good and ready!!”
The frustration and mild indignation I sensed in his voice when he replied, “Yeah, fine, whatever,” actually made me feel guilty. So, obviously, I have psychological issues that are different but almost as serious as his.
Anyway, getting back to the person I admire, a person with the guts to reply to messages two, three, and even six days later — or not at all. I really wish I could be like that, but I know I never will.