Why I respond to every incoming email

By Ev Bogue - November 22nd 2014

Over the past year I've figured out the best way to deal with people is to always reply to their emails.

This wasn't always true for me. I used to get so many emails I couldn't even think about replying to them. I also thought that 'going silent' on certain types of people (trolls, psychopaths, shitheads) was the best way to deal with them.

This, I've discovered, is almost always a mistake for me.

So I've started replying to every email I receive from a real human.

This rule I've made for myself applies to the first email I receive from a person. If there's a natural end the conversation, of course I'll end the conversation. Sometimes it might take me a day or two to think about what I should say in response. Sometimes I say 'I have no idea how to respond to this email.' Sometimes I say something in response that the person doesn't want to hear at all.

There are a few reasons why I think it's important to always respond to every incoming email.

  1. Responding silences speculation. Think about this the next time you don't receive a response to an email. What goes through your mind? It's almost never good. "Is this person alive or dead? Are they out of money? Do they not have enough calories in their systems to respond to an email? Are they scared shitless of me?" All sorts of thinks run through heads when there is no sign in the shopkeeper's window.
  2. Respoding keeps the door open. Haters, trolls, pile ons, and other unfortunate Internet incidents almost always result from slamming the door in someone's face. Filtering spam from machines to /dev/null with Procmail is fine, but filtering emails from humans to /dev/null will only make the problem worse. Keep the door open.
  3. Responding to emails can lead to more sales in the future. More sales, more money. More money, less problems.

Let me take a minute to talk about The Shop Keeper's window.

You go to buy chorizo at your local meat market. The shop keeper isn't there at the usual time. He doesn't leave a note in the window. What are you going to think?

"Maybe he's sick. Or dead. Or perhaps he's given up selling Chorizo."

If he'd left a sign, everything would be much easier.

"Gone fishin' in Puerto Vallarta, be back tomorrow."

Isn't that a better message in the shop kepper's window? Now there's no room for speculation. Your brain will be at ease. Everything is right in the universe.

And that folks is why I reply to every email. Even if you don't want to hear what I said back to you.

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