A recent article in the New York Times, Anyone There?, discusses the often encountered problem of sending someone an email and not receiving a response. Even when you don’t ask a direct question, you expect a response of some kind. At least an acknowledgement that the email was received. And you don’t want to ask for a receipt which is generally considered inappropriate for personal email.So, why do so many people not respond? This article, by Henry Alford, mentions a few reasons and I add a few of my own, though, I’m sure, there are many, many other reasons.
· The email asks you to do something and you don’t have the time or interest and it goes onto the back burner and eventually forgotten. In terms of politeness theory, these emails attack a person’s negative face, the person’s desire for autonomy and not being imposed upon, and ask the person to do something.
· The email invites you to go somewhere you don’t want to go and so you have to refuse which is unpleasant so again you put it off.
· The email is one of too many, a case of information overload. You can’t possibly answer every email you receive. Or, the email was too long and you didn’t want to read the entire four pages.
· The email was deleted by mistake before you read it or after you read it but you can’t remember what it said. It may seem best to simply ignore it; you can always claim you didn’t receive it.
· You want to discourage the person from continuing to email you these stupid jokes or photos of their kids or pets. Your silence is designed to say Enough.
· You don’t know the rules of netiquette which require you to respond in some way. It’s impolite to do otherwise.
· You classify it “C priority” and never get beyond “B”.
· You forget; you mean to reply but then forget to and after a length of time, it may seem inappropriate to say anything.
· You assume that no reply was necessary or desired. Even though “no reply” was not explicit, it seemed to be an email where a response was not required or even desired.