How to deal with long reply times or no answer

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Ease of communication and hyper-connectivity comes with a myriad of advantages as well as disadvantages. As good as it can be at times, I am probably leaning towards it having dragged along as many new problems as it solved along the way. Not that we shouldn’t have it, but we need to adapt to both the strains and expectations it puts on both us and others. In the Utopian scenario all this connectivity just helps us communicate more, developing closer and deeper relations with others, but in my opinion it really ends up doing the almost opposite. The ease of communication detracts from the quality of the message.

Have you ever tried writing Christmas cards? (If not – then please do. They will make a lasting impression on your recipients unlike anything ever sent or written electronically. But more on that in a later post.) The thing with cards and letters written by hand is that they are really hard to write. You have to think about what you will write. Perhaps even make a draft before putting it permanently on the intended card or paper. With electronic communication you can always just send a message more, back paddle a bit, if your recipient misunderstands you or explain a bit deeper, which all reduces the effort that goes into the text in the first place.

But wasn’t this post about reply-times? How are they related to effort? We’ll get there. Be patient my friend.

The obvious conclusion at this point would be that I’m trying to say that reply-times are related to effort – but that is not the case actually. I think they carry a history together, but it is not the end point of this blog post, we will get to that.

People are generally quite good at recognizing effort and feel a somewhat internal responsibility to acknowledge it. People will generally have a harder time ignoring something that a lot of effort went into as opposed to something that clearly hadn’t had any effort. If you gift something you have made yourself to someone, then taking aside the quality and aesthetic properties of the item, people will have a harder time turning down a gift that you clearly have put a lot of effort into as opposed to something you clearly just developed with two strokes of a very big hammer. Even if both are turned down, you can be pretty sure that the “effort-heavy” one was making the recipient think harder about turning it down.

Now as said earlier the point here is not that long reply-times or no answer at all is directly related to effort of electronic communication, but I do think that the ease of communication has made us feel less of a strain when not replying or replying late to something. The world quickly moves on.

But then how do we as individuals actually deal with this perceived long response times and perhaps even no response at all? For all my life I have been somewhat bad at managing this. I have gotten a lot better, but still catch myself getting a bit to wound up for unimportant reasons.

First of all there as I see it 3 categories of people each deserving their own distinct approach. Friends, business contacts, and prospects. Friends is pretty obvious as to whom it includes. Business contacts contains all people that you for one reason or the other are “forced” to be in contact with, so it doesn’t have to be business related. Prospects cover people you would like to be/come in contact or closer contact with, both personally and business wise.

Common for all is that you need to start by taking responsibility for the contact/interaction and realize that the problem resides with you. You are the one getting angry, you are the one thinking up scenarios as to why the other party isn’t answering. You are the one with the problem – not them. Handling these late replies and no replies then differs for each of the 3 categories as we will get to. But start by taking responsibility for the anger and problem, by doing so you are in control.

As a general rule people treat you the way you “let” them. This of course is more relevant to friends and “business contacts” as these two categories generally involve more rapport between you. Being super assertive and dominant with people whom you are trying to get in contact with, might not be the best strategy of the line. But what I’m trying to say is that if you always have been the type of person who has just smiled and let it pass without any confrontation each time friends has stepped over your line, then they will “learn” this behavior and inadvertently know that if they find themselves in a situation where it is between stepping a bit on your toes and another who clearly states his or her boundaries, then you are most likely to draw the short straw. If you hate it when people don’t answer your texts within a day then let them know! Don’t expect people to sit waiting to write you back every 5-10 min. But within 24h most people, not counting vacations, illness, family trouble etc. should have had a chance to write a text, maybe just saying “Sorry, super busy – will get back to you in a few days.”

But then how do we handle friends that keeps crossing these lines and ignore our texts/calls/whatever? If you have already confronted them as written above, then take the hard consideration as to whether you would like to keep them in your life. They can be super busy people so perhaps you need to order your friendship around that and only see them a few times a year, but in the end YOU need to decide whether the value they bring to your life outweighs the negatives of them willfully or not bringing conflict into your relationship. This of course is a balancing act. As said earlier don’t be the 10 yo child that can’t handle a few hours of delay on a reply. Or you could be – of course you make the rules in your life, but if you then end up with no real friends around you then perhaps the problem isn’t as much with them as with you.

Now “business contacts”. This is a bit different as you don’t necessarily have the same amount of control about whether to have them in your life or not. The point about people treating you as you allow them to do applies. But as well as you not being in as much control about leaving them, they will also know that they probably can get away with quite a lot more than otherwise if your business together relies on the fact that you communicate. So again. Don’t be a 10 yo child! Communicate with respect and write in neutral but form language that their late responses of total lack of responses is not to your liking and that it has the consequence of x,y,z to your relationship or business. If you out anger into it, they will most likely respond with anger. Don’t try to force people into something, convey objectively and explain your point.

Finally prospects. Here your expectations should be really low. As a rule of thumb expect no answer at all. If you do not know people and have close relations to them, then don’t expect anything. They can have a thousand other close relations to cater to so why should they potentially risk any of those just to answer you. So don’t expect anything. But wrapping up the point from earlier, a minimal amount of effort put into the inquiry will most likely help. Write something that is clearly personal and aimed at them but without trying too hard. Give them an easy way out and be precise in what you try to accomplish with your message. This as said in the beginning of this paragraph by no means ensures an timely or even an answer at all, but it should increase your chances.

Happy communicating, and remember to always think the best of the other party. No one is by default mean or aiming to hurt you. They can have a thousand struggles in their life you know nothing about, so don’t judge them.

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How to make everyday feel like vacation without quitting your job

Sunset St. PeteOkay I’ll start with a confession. If you are an employer, then giving this to your employees, won’t make them magically skip their holidays to work more hours for you. Although if you try and it works, then please transfer a percentage of whatever that is worth to you to my account.

Having gotten  that out of the way, let’s get on with it. Being quite the wanderer myself, I have spent quite a lot of time contemplating how everyday could get to be a bit more like everyday on a vacation. The obvious answer of course is to just lay by the beach all day and sip margaritas. The short term effects of this would probably b y great. A lot of relaxation and no stress at all. Until your boss calls and yells at you for not being at your desk. Then no relaxation, no margaritas and no job – which you could argue would give more time for the beach – but as you probably will have bills to pay, then again, this is a somewhat  shortsighted solution.

What you need to do is look a little deeper into what separates normal everyday life from everyday life while being on vacation. This can of course depend a lot on how you spend your vacation. Some people like to spend them horisonttally on a deck chair in front of a pool, only having to lift their arms to have a cocktail put into them by the all-inclusive staff. Others like to spend their vacations on training camps or hiking around exploring.

Perhaps with the exception of the “all-inclusive-glued-to-the-deck-chair-I-WON’T-move!” vacation all the other actually have quite a bit in common although their expression of it differs. What they have in common is new experiences. What makes a vacations leave such a long lasting and worthwhile impact is the multitude of new experiences you have.

In contrast, what characterizes “normal” everyday living is the exact opposite. A lot of routine and not many new experiences. You could go see your friends, but hey there is Netflix and a day tomorrow, so perhaps it is better if you just stay on the couch tonight, you can do so tomorrow. Then tomorrow arrives. Today you’ll go have fun with your friends, a but wait today is training day with your team. It’ll have to wait until tomorrow. And then each day goes by, followed by each week and nothing new happens. Each week just looks like the previous on repeat, like Christmas holiday television, the same over and over again.

The solution is simple but not easy. Don’t ever confuse the two.

What you need to do more often is break out your regular routines. I had sort of an epiphany with regards to this recently. I grew up near the ocean and always find myself seeking towards the ocean and water whenever possible. I love being near water, on water and swimming in water. It by all means make me happier. Having moved to the capital of Denmark a few years back, this swimming and being close to the ocean was made a bit more complicated. Note; complicated. Not impossible by any means as Copenhagen actually is right beside the coast and ocean, but getting there was a bit harder as I would have to drive through heavy traffic to get there. For almost two years I didn’t swim all that much during summer. Of course I had a few swims when vacation or anything of the like brought me in a situation where swimming was obvious or easy. But even though I lived not that far from the sea I never went there myself even though if I had lived the same distance to the sea on a vacation I would probably have went almost everyday when weather allowed for it.

After a recent move, and while thinking some of the thoughts that is put to writing here, it suddenly dawned on me that I had no more than 15 minutes of drive from my apartment to the beach. If I was unhappy about not spending enough time near or in water, it was totally my own fault! This had to change!

So I made the decision to actually do take the time to go for a evening swim during weekdays. Go out experience something new and be open to what it might bring. I also find myself more often going out to photograph and see landmarks and points of interest close by that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have. Sure the urge for just being at home some days are stronger, and the point is not to always force yourself out of the door, but the point is that some days you do. Some days you DO fight the urge to stay on the couch during weekdays and go out either for yourself or with friends for new experiences.

They are out there waiting for you. Go get them!

How to come across as insecure in writing

There are numerous examples of situations where you would want to come across as insecure. Say you found yourself writing a CV where you wouldn’t want the recipient to hire you, maybe sending along a cover letter that backed up the insecurity of set CV. Maybe you are writing business emails to potential new clients that you don’t want or trying to negotiate terms that you would love to be worse. As said the applicability and examples are numerous, so how do you do it?

There are two very easy and simple ways to do this, so let us start of with the first.

Exhibit A:

Writing “I” when referencing to yourself with lower-case “i”.

For people who does not know this, it can seem unimportant. Will this minor detail be enough to let me come across as insecure – shouldn’t I try harder? You can try harder – of course – but this little trick will get you very far. I’ll go as far as to call it the 80/20 rule of insecurity in writing.

In the business world you are almost guaranteed success if you do this. Your 14yo pen-pal may not pick up on the subtle detail, but proving insecurity towards him may be as easy as keeping your crash helmet on when you step off your tri-cycle and walk across the playground to class.

But if people handle serious recruiting, negotiation or sales they WILL pick up on this. Candidates, mails etc. where this is present will almost explode in front of them and make the first screening a peach. So again; if you wish to come across as insecure remember to write I with lower-case.

Exhibit B:

Referencing third person instead of claiming responsibility.

While not as powerful as Exhibit A, Exhibit B still has it’s merits. A strong and secure person will take responsibility, know their weaknesses and stand by them. To come across as insecure what you need to do is avoid claiming responsibility and always write in broad terms.

The best example of this is probably describing limitations or weaknesses, but can be applied at will to almost all scenarios. Let’s take two developer candidates as an example. They are both asked to describe their weaknesses.

  1. As most programmers i am probably not the best tester, but that is just part of being a programmer i guess.
  2. I am not the most thorough tester.

Yes I know – I spiced up the examples with Exhibit A as well. Now this is taken totally out of context and drilled down to a very simple and short example. But 1 should be a clear winner here in terms of insecurity. Writing like this you almost excuse yourself for being present. The exact vibe you would want to come across when trying to appear insecure.

I hope my little short examples provide some inspiration as to how powerful writing can be in transmitting cues as to who you are as a person. I will probably be writing a lot more about this in the future and not only confined to writing, but also speech, body language etc.