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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

4 Reasons You Haven't Gotten a Response to Your Email

So, you sent an email. You expect a prompt response. Then, you wait. And wait. And it starts to feel like dating, where you rethink all of your last interactions and wonder whether you said or did something wrong.

Unfortunately, you might be right. We lose 10 IQ points from fielding constant email, so we’re bound to make mistakes when it comes to sending them. Here are some reasons you may be dealing with radio silence.

1. Your Email Was Too Long

In researching statistics about email usage, I found lots of studies and claims: Over 100 billion emails are sent per day, 28% of an average work week is spent on email, 65% of all email is opened on a small screen first, the average time reading an email is 15-20 seconds, people check email 36 times an hour.

Two points are clear: Email takes up a ton of our time, and our attention spans are very short.

So, if the time we have to look at emails isn’t long, an email itself shouldn’t be either. If you look back at your email and see five paragraphs when you could have written five really clear sentences and questions instead, it’s time to bring out the chainsaw. Can’t get your message across in a few lines? Try calling that client or stopping by your co-worker’s desk instead. Then, send an email to recap what you just discussed.

2. Your Request Was Unclear

I admit that I’ve used email like a stream of consciousness poem, writing a lot of words to get thoughts out of my head and make sense of them at the same time. Those emails were terrible! When I reread them, it’s clear that I said so much to hide the fact that I didn’t really know what I was thinking or asking for. If I don’t know what I need, how can I expect someone to know how to help me?

If you tend to treat email like your middle school journal, try asking these five questions from your recipient’s perspective before you click send.

3. It’s Not You, It’s Them

Unfortunately, even the best-crafted emails and polite phone calls get ignored. Don’t take it personally. Remember that your recipients are human—imperfect with deadlines, juggling work-life balances, needing to please bosses and customers, maybe even planning to leave that job.

If you’re waiting to hear from a client, talk to an account manager or research what’s happening in the surrounding industry (financial crisis, anyone?). If you’ve not gotten a response from a co-worker on a critical item and chatting in-person hasn’t worked, speak to your manager about it. For everyone else, follow Elliott Bell’s tips for being politely persistent.

4. ...Or Maybe it Is You

Still, don’t take it personally. You can’t force someone to get back to you, and you certainly can’t make someone like you if your personalities just don’t mix. However, you can check yourself on certain behavior and develop traits that get people to respect you. When you’re respected, you’re seen as having leadership potential—and leaders are rarely ignored.