A couple of months ago, my business partner asked me to do something. He asked me to do my part of the work on the project we were working on and send him the task in 3 days. Being Busy with some urgent household work (my grandmother expired the same week), I didn’t quite know how I will be able to do what he asked me to. I figured I will somehow find time and said yes.
I was mistaken. I realized later on amidst all the other things going on in my personal life, I couldn’t spare out any time to do the work my partner asked me to. And then came the moment of truth.
He sent me a message on the messenger asking for the update. I didn’t have any because I had barely even started the task, let alone finish it and give a status update. So, I chickened out. Ashamed of myself for not doing the work and afraid to face my partner, I didn’t reply to his message. In the night, he messaged again for the status. Having not done the work now also and not wanting to face him, I did the same thing. I ignored the message and didn’t reply anything. He even called but I didn’t pick the phone.
I believe this pissed him a bit. Next morning, he sent me bitter messages. Some of them were linked to our previous tussle about another issue. “What is it? You don’t even care to reply to my message. It’s not that I can’t do this bit of the task. I am capable enough and I myself will do the work. You need not bother.”
The result… I had to eventually call him and pacify him by explaining the situation at my home and the reason why I couldn’t do the task, and the fact that it was not because of any hard feelings of our old tussles. I had to explain him that I was not trying to ‘get back on him’ because of any grudges of the past.
What began as a small face-saving gimmick eventually turned out to be a bigger issue with me apologizing, not just for not doing the task but now also for not replying which led to an unnecessary misunderstanding.
The “No Reply Syndrome”: Have you ever chickened out like this? Somebody you know (or perhaps you don’t know) contacted you over phone or message or email and you didn’t want to face that person because of an uncomfortable conversation where you knew you were at the losing end of it. Now try to imagine how it feels when you don’t reply to someone because you feel uncomfortable talking. Feels embarrassing doesn’t it. Like it or not, you are the carrier of the “No Reply Syndrome”.
Now let’s get over to the other side. Have you even seen anybody chicken out when you were trying to get in touch with that person? Ever been ‘stood up’ in a relationship where the other person is just not responding to your calls or messages? Try to imagine how this feels, when you don’t get any reply to any person. You start asking yourself all sorts of questions. Maybe it’s because of this, maybe it’s because of that and all other plausible guesses as to why the person is not responding. As it turns out, you are now the victim of the “No Reply Syndrome”.
My Mistake: As I recall the incident, I figure it would have been better if I simply had said “No, I’m sorry I haven’t done the work” at the first instant my partner asked me for the update. It would have been embarrassing, yes, but it would have saved a lot of escalated embarrassment that happened later on.
A “No” reply it seems was much better than a “No reply”.
The question is, is it easy to give a “No” reply then and there? And the answer is No. It’s not.
It’s hard. The irony however is that the truth has its own way of coming out eventually. Businessperson Guy Kawasaki also said this in different words, “The best time to give bad news is early.”
Since then, I have resolved to, as much as I can, say “No” to a person as early in the conversation as possible so as to avoid any possible escalated and heated arguments/bitter feelings in the future.
Try-it out: Have you lately been ignoring someone to save your face? Are you afraid of having an uncomfortable conversation with someone and hence ignoring that person? More often than not, the other person would be as much bothered about your not replying as you are. Try it out this time. Think of what you would say or what you would do when you run out of words, take the plunge and say “No” for a change. Stop ignoring and see the results. It may be hard but if done with good intentions (and keeping your and their best interest at heart) it will surely come out well in the end. That is my forever hope.