Let’s face it. People aren’t very good at returning calls these days. If you don’t have something they want right then, often times the calls take a back seat to the more pressing matters at hand. In business, it seems to be less offensive than in one’s personal life. In business, if someone doesn’t return calls it is usually because the person isn’t quite ready to do business. Perhaps they haven’t made a decision or they are working on another project. Perhaps they don’t want or need your services and so they’re saving face by not returning the calls. Casual persistence is the best way to handle these people. And dropping a hand written note with valuable information is always a good tactic. Sometimes, by adding enough value you are able to charm the person into returning or taking your calls. A rule of thumb though is to NEVER, EVER make them feel guilty for not returning the calls. It’s best to pass it off and never mention it again. It’s past history!
In personal life, the “not returning calls (or emails) syndrome” takes on a whole new meaning. It’s personal, and it hits you more at a core level. It’s YOU they are rejecting, not your BUSINESS!!! Lets say for instance that you’ve talked about getting together socially with someone for quite some time. Finally, you offer up a few days and expect to get the time set up and meet within a short amount of time. Yet, the email or call never comes back and you begin to wonder, “What did I do?” Potentially you mentally rehearse your last few conversations to see if there was something that could have been misconstrued. Then your mind starts playing tricks on you and sometimes leads you to believe that something you said wasn’t communicated correctly, or perhaps the person ran into someone else who told them that you were talking about them. Or, perhaps you were too scatterbrained when you last spoke and the person no longer wants to be friends. You are bound and determined to put forth a good face to them “next” time, even though your life is crumbling apart.
Ahhhhhhh!!! Now the obsession takes over and you can’t stop thinking about it and wondered what you did wrong? STOPPPPPPP!!! Isn’t it funny what our thoughts can do to us? They can rip us to shreds quicker and faster than anyone else can imagine. They can pull us down and force us to spiral downward that leave us in a heap of mental dysfunction. Okay, there are times that a friendship will be put on hold due to some of the choices we make. And there are cases that a friendship is over due to the differences in values that people have. But normally, it doesn’t happen like this. Normally, there is something else going on.
The other person had a death in the family and is having to attend a funeral.
Their brother or sister, or both… ended up in the hospital.
Their kids are having problems at school.
Their kids are having projects at school.
They are having company in town for a week.
They are in the process of moving offices or homes.
They are looking for a job and it’s taking every second of their time.
They aren’t getting along with their spouse and don’t feel up to getting together with anyone.
They are having some financial issues and getting together for lunch or dinner is not in the budget.
Their child needs some sort of therapy or counseling and their mind is on that.
They are going out of town for the weekend and trying to get ready.
Their husband and son are taking a camping trip and they need to prepare the tent and camping equipment.
They are competing in some sort of sporting event and they are practicing extra.
They’ve started taking classes and are now studying for the class and upcoming tests.
Okay, you now get the picture! People are BUSY. Taking it personal that someone isn’t calling or emailing you back is probably natural, but not practical. We are living in a different day and time now and the old days of everyone returning calls immediately has now changed to, “I’ll call you back when I can.” People are BUSY and we can’t and won’t all fit into each others’ lives at the same level that we’d like. Children and family takes priority over people with small kids, and work loads and other responsibilities come first before an active social life. Often now, the conversations have to be cut short and continued later. It’s nothing now for people to stop a conversation midstream only to promise a later get together. Interestingly enough, people seem to be fine with it.
I know that I’ve been unable to attend to a few personal meetings as of late. I’ve not been able to be up with my work load or return calls and emails promptly. I know that it can look bad to others at this point. I can talk a good game, but I can’t back it up right now. It’s just where I am at this point in my life.
I had to tell an old friend recently who commonly makes me feel guilty if I’m not checking in regularly that he shouldn’t expect any phone calls from me in the next year. I currently do not HAVE a social life and don’t intend to have one in the next few months or year at least. My plate is full. My child is my sole focus right now. If I’m not taking him to Occupational Therapy, then I’m taking him to the park or on a bike ride. If he’s at school and I have an extra hour, I’m going to be reading about things that will help him. I will NOT be nursing my social life. It’s just where I am right now and I requested that he just understand that I don’t have anyone outside of my immediate family as a focus right now. I wish things were different but they’re not. I was as nice as I could be, and I think it helped him understand that I can’t be an attentive friend right now.
On the flipside, I’ve also been on the other side where I’m obsessing about people not returning MY calls. I soon found out though that they were out of town or had another amazing excuse that I didn’t know at the time. So I’ve had to forgive others of these minor offenses just like I’m hoping others are forgiving me. I have found however, that if you drop a note to the person saying you can’t respond right then because of some personal issues, people are completely fine with that.
Returning calls and emails is the polite thing to do. My dad once told me to always be the last one to write or call and to never leave people hanging. It’s great advice and it’s advice I share with others. But I also have tolerance for others when they are slow to move as quickly as I am at that moment. My life responsibilities have interrupted my social life more than once and I’m sure it will again. I just want to make sure that my SOCIAL life, doesn’t interrupt my DAILY life. That is where I am right now. My close friends will understand and the others will just have to wait. And meanwhile, I’m wishing you all love and blessings in your life!!! We’ll all be together again!
Mary Gardner is a professional in the area of lifestyles and communications who is officially taking a break from her normally exciting social life. Sometimes life gets in the way, and you have to role with the punches! For more information: http://www.marygardner.com