Courtesy requires a simple response to an email, especially if it's from someone you know.
This piece originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.
Why don’t you respond to my emails?
You know me. I know you. We’ve spoken on the phone before. We worked together on a project. We had lunch. We had dinner. We’ve helped each other with a mutual customer. We’ve shared stories. We’ve exchanged emails before. But now…you don’t respond to my emails.
Why is this?
I could understand if I’m sending you a sales pitch or an unsolicited message. I would empathize if the emails I’m sending to you have big attachments, misspell your name, are too long, too frequent or so generic that it’s obvious that I’ve included your name as one on a long list of recipients. But that’s not the case here. This isn’t a cold email from a complete stranger. This is me.
And yet… you don’t respond to my emails.
Is this a millennial thing? Is it because you’re under 35 and were brought up in a world of 140 characters, grammatically incorrect text messages and emoji’s instead of more though out and intelligent discourse? Is it because your generation is used to receiving thousands of snapchats, tweets, Instagram and Facebook messages a day? Are you conditioned to only respond to what you care about, with the sender’s implicit understanding that a non-response means only that you’re just not interested at this time, regardless of your relationship with him?
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Did the email I that sent to you get caught in your spam filter and you’re unable to quickly review that folder once or twice a day just to make sure? Do you have so many emails in your spam filter that doing this takes an inordinate of amount time—more so then, say, checking ESPN, Perez Hilton, YouTube and Reddit? Do you so trust the spam filter algorithms that you feel completely assured that all genuine spam emails are caught by the software and that no legitimate emails that have an impact on your job, your employer, your company are located there? Is that why my email doesn’t get a response from you?
Or are you so busy, so “slammed,” so “crazy” and so “buried” that you just couldn’t get to it today, this week or this month? Is it that you have so many thousands and thousands of emails in your inbox that it’s impossible to simply sort them by date received and give a quick perusal of the ones to respond back and make the time to do it. Have you absolutely no time left in the day to click reply and then write six words like “thanks will get to it soon,” or two words that say “will do,” or nine words that say “not at this time, good to hear from you,” so that the sender doesn’t feel like he’s being completely blown off by you?
Is it because the email is from me and not… say… President Obama or Beyoncé? If President Obama or Beyoncé (or, let’s throw in Matt Damon) sent you a legitimate, personal, verified, sincere email that was asking for out for a beer or your opinion on a national matter or just a few minutes to speak by phone about America’s issue would you ignore that email too? If you saw that email in your spam filter would you mark it not spam and reply? Would you still be so busy, slammed, crazy or buried that you wouldn’t take less than 30 seconds and respond — even if it’s “Thanks Mr. President/Damon/Ms. Beyoncé I’ll get back to you soon?”
I think you would. Which means that you are choosing to answer an email from President Obama, Beyoncé or Matt Damon instead of my email because they are more important to you than I am. Even if you’re a millennial. Even if the email is in your spam filter. Even if you’re so busy, slammed, crazy and buried today. You would still answer them, wouldn’t you?
Well, here’s something to consider the next time I email you—President Obama, Beyoncé and Matt Damon are never going to email you. They’ve never met you and have no idea who you are. However, I’ve met you. I know who you are. I’m the guy who’s your customer, your partner, your friend and business colleague. I’m the guy who actually knows you. I’m the one who’s in your life.
I’m the guy who just wants a simple response so that I don’t have to keep emailing and emailing you like I’m some kind of a loser.
Because that’s the way, by your thoughtless, unprofessional, rude and indifferent behavior, you make me—and everyone else in your life like me who do business with—feel.
Gene Marks is president of The Marks Group, a ten-person Philadelphia-based consulting firm specializing in sales and marketing technologies.