Decades ago, the phone rang and we picked it up. We couldn’t see who was calling, so you either picked-up or let the phone ring to oblivion. Then came caller ID and we could screen our calls and pick-up or not. Then our mobile phones gave us all sorts of ways to take calls, hold calls, block calls, see who’s calling and tell them we’ll call them later or send them right to voicemail and a bunch of other ways to decide who we talk to and when. Unless you are a telemarketer hounding me to get that new business loan or whatever else you’re peddling, if you call me, I will call you back. Friend, prospect, client, whoever. If you call and need something from me or just want to talk, I have the courtesy to call you back. That’s how it works.

So, why doesn’t email work that way?

Ghosting has become an art form. There are people I email and never hear back from. I’m not talking about people I don’t know. I’m talking about people you probably know too. Are they busy people? Sure. But, aren’t we all? When you don’t respond, you signal that you’re busier than I am, as if it’s a competition, or that I’m not important, which is sad. Those are both assumptions I have to make when you say nothing. I can hear you saying: “I get too many emails! I can’t possibly get to them all.” And, I say, B.S. Do we all get too many emails, sure we do. But, I look at my email the same way I look at my phone. If you email me and ask if I have 30 minutes to chat or to meet for lunch or to give you my perspective on something, I email you back. It might not be the same day, but you will always get a response from me. I might tell you I can’t meet right now or might have to push out a call or might not be interested (very rare), but you will always get a response from me. So why doesn’t this courtesy go both ways? The Ghost Factor.

Responding to someone via email, phone, text, chat, social, whatever is not a courtesy. It is an expectation and, if you’re not doing it, you’re guilty of ghosting. Think about it this way. Imagine you’re hot on the trail of closing a big deal – serious new revenue, brand cache and all the trimmings – and you decide to just stop communicating with the prospect. You just ghost him and stop responding to his calls or emails. Honestly, it’s tough to imagine, because no business person, sales person or living and breathing person would ever do this. You know better. You can change your mind and decide you don’t want to continue with the deal, but because you know it’s the right thing to do for your personal AND business reputation, you communicate, you don’t ghost.

Yesware has built a thriving business off the Ghost Factor. No more wondering if someone actually got your email. Now, I agree that we don’t want or need all the email “spam” that comes to us every day. Luckily we have a spam filter for that. However, the power of Yesware is that I can see who opened my email (or not) and then I can track responses. Mind you, I’m not sending out mass sales emails. My business is 100% relationship-based. If yours isn’t, it should be. People respond to people, right? Sadly not. People open emails and never respond. I was recently closing a deal and the potential client went completely dark. We were moving to the contract stage and planning the kick-off and “poof” vanished. I tried several attempts to give him “the out” if he wasn’t ready but instead I’m left wondering and feeling like I wasted a whole bunch of time, which I did. And it’s not just a “woes of being in the services business” problem, it’s your personal business relationships. People I have known for years or even decades and want to reconnect with or stay connected with just never respond. I know they read my email but they don’t have the courtesy to send one back.

I could just shrug it off and chalk it up to everyone being too busy. But the art of the two-way street is somehow lost in the new Ghost Factor. When did it become okay to never respond? What if you need something from that person later? Chances are you will. That’s called a one-way street, my friends.

I invite you to think about your inbox differently. If it’s a hot-mess like mine can be, I get it. But what if we just all stop responding to each other and hide behind an email excuse. What does this mean for our relationships? Our businesses? Our company culture? Our communities? Our ability to communicate, learn and grow together? Spend the 2 seconds it takes to respond even if the answer is no or can’t do it now or not interested. It goes a long way to closing the loop and creating a two-way street.

Be human. Be kind. Be respectful. Close the loop and be a communicator. One-way streets are dead-ends.

Image courtesy of Wendy Scofield

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