Whether you’re the culprit of ignoring texts or the victim of being ignored—I get it. Unanswered text messages don’t make you feel good.
I’m writing this post because I have many, many texts I haven’t replied to. I’m not sure what people think who I’ve left hanging, but I hope this post will reveal what goes on when you haven’t heard from me.
Love/hate relationship with texting
I have a love/hate relationship with texting. On the one hand it’s great to instantly ping someone when you think of something. I use it all the time to get in touch with my family. But on the other hand, texting privileges the person sending the message and doesn’t allow the receiver to set up expectations, “current status,” or location (like AIM used to).
If we could set a “current status” or warning message before someone sends the text, that would help a lot. For instance, it would say something like…
- I'm away on vacation till next Tuesday. Won't be responding to texts!
- I'll be in meetings all day and not replying to texts – send me an email!
- I'll be by my phone all day!
We expect people to reply
When we email someone, we understand that they might not get it right away. That’s why texting is “so much better”—because we know their phone will light up and they’ll see our question pretty quickly and hopefully get back to us.
That’s a pretty high expectation, however, even though the act of typing back doesn’t really require much effort or energy.
The difference between ignoring and not responding
There’s a big difference between ignoring a text and not responding. I don’t actually ignore text messages. I do the opposite: I read all the texts I receive…usually at the moment they were sent. If I truly “ignored” your message, I’d purposefully avoid reading it. But I do the opposite. I read it. Think about it. And then it hits me…I’m not focusing on what I was doing before your text came through.
I’m mad at myself for getting distracted.
So, I’ll think of all the things I need to do or figure out in order to reply. But then I’m even more frustrated because I’m really not focusing on what I was doing before your message came in. I’m sucked in to the text.
I may reply within a few minutes so I can get back to what I was doing. But most of the time, I might not respond at all. And I think that’s OK. I’ve worked hard to not respond.
It’s OK if I don’t respond. Really!
While some might argue that not responding to texts is rude, inconsiderate, unprofessional, old-fashioned, or lame…it has helped me become more focused and productive in my life and work.
When I devote my full attention to something, it gets all of my energy, which causes real progress. When I am replying to texts and shifting my focus back and fourth, my energy goes in too many directions. To visualize this, check out the following graphic:
This comes from Greg McKeown's Essentialism where his research shows that when we devote our energy to “less” we actually make the progress we're hoping to make.
The truth is, I have the tendency to shift my focus when my phone lights up. When a new shiny message comes through, my brain shifts gears instead of focusing deeply on my current commitment. That commitment might be writing something that requires my full attention, or it may be a lunch meeting, where I’m trying to fully “be” with the person I’m with.
Here’s why I “ignored” your text
- I didn’t ignore it—I just didn’t respond. Most of the time, I saw your message and thought about responding, but it wasn’t a good time for me to type. I may have been driving…meeting with someone…or deeply working on something else. And since I don’t have a great system to remind myself to reply to texts, I’ll completely forget to get back to you. Solution: when in doubt, resend the text at a later time.
I have to figure other things out before I can reply. Sometimes your text will require me to reach out to a few people and get their answers before I can give you yours. In the process of reaching out to the others—I forget to respond to you. Solution: Follow up with email, which I always check at least twice a day and will reply.
There’s no easy way to re-trigger texts unless you resend. I know I could ask Siri to remind me to text you back, but that’s not always convenient. Solution: Resend your message at a different time of day.
[reminder]Do you ever forget to reply to texts?[/reminder]