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Knock Knock. Uhm, is anybody out there?

March 13, 2012

Children everywhere would be disheartened if people stopped responding, “Who’s there?” to the time honored Knock Knock joke.

I’m afraid to say it, but I fear it’s already happened. Not so much with Knock Knock jokes, but responding in general. It appears replying has gone out of fashion. Whether it’s returning emails, phone calls, or texts, that oh so simple courtesy has disappeared.

Last week I left three voice messages and sent one email to the same person regarding payments with my new home. After four days of no response, I called again. Then I called her boss. The next day I got my return call. It’s baffling because when they need something from me, they’re on the phone lickety split.

People have been talking of these slips in manners for a while. In our fast-paced, get-back-to-you-in-an-instant world, why is it some people just don’t? Are they too busy? Too tired? Too overworked? I try to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they never received my email. Maybe I never sent it. Maybe my voice mail was garbled. It happens. Or maybe it’s the lack of face-to-face communication that makes us forget there are actual people on the other end. Because while we think we’re connecting with people, really, the only things we’re connecting with are our devices.

In a past job, there was a young man who sat right outside my office door and he would email me. I would reply – via my mouth – “Are you seriously emailing me? Just come into my office.”

In this age of instant communication – and gratification – when we’re left hanging like a kid shouting “Knock Knock” at a party with no one answering, it’s unsettling. Self-doubt pours in. Are they ignoring me? Are they mad at me? Did I write something wrong? I’m well aware we’re all busy, but in less time than it takes to order a venti, sugar-free, non-fat, vanilla soy, double shot, decaf, no foam, chocolate mocha with extra syrup, most people are capable of answering an email or text. A simple, “Sorry, crazy busy. Got your message and will get back to you in a day or two,” at the very least informs the sender their message was received.

Curious as to the protocol when it comes to getting back to people, I emailed a higher authority. But alas, it’s been two weeks and still Miss Manners has yet to respond.

Has this happened to you? Feel free to share…unless you’re too busy. 😉

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7 Comments
  1. scott israel permalink

    Hey I always respond to you right away :>)

  2. In years past I have noticed that parents are not teaching their children to say please, thank you,etc. children also learn what they see and hear. Are we as adults too busy to be polite and respond? Thanks for reminding me that I need to be a better example for others, and respond even if it might only be a child who is doing a knock knock joke.

  3. Mary Ellen permalink

    I’m right there with you. Trying to get a response from people regarding a bill or a job-poster who you have contacted numerous times has become very disheartening.
    In the old days at least I would get a pre-printed postcard but now, nothing.

  4. Jim Kirstein permalink

    Even when face-to-face communication options avail themselves people are connected to their devices and not the world around them. So the result is a large number of people alone in a crowd. If people would just not be afraid to talk to each other they might find that instead of being in a group of strangers they are with friends they have not yet met.

  5. marcia boland-wells permalink

    Great article Felice! I recently had a similar situation. I had to call the CEO of a company and when I did his voicemail said “leave a message & I’ll call you back.” Funny thing, he never called back. So, after leaving two more messages, I left him a message: “I think you should change your voicemail answering message to this. “Maybe I’ll call you back, maybe I won’t! If you are important maybe I will call you back some time, if you are not, then maybe I will never call you back, who knows when I may get the chance to call you back, & by the way, don’t even bother trying to get me to call you back!”

    Never heard from the guy & stopped buying his product!

    Auntie M

  6. Katy Fung permalink

    I completely agree with you on this matter. A few years ago, I volunteered at a local hospital. After my volunteer experience ended, I needed a reference, so I called the supervisor that I worked for and left her a voicemail. After no reply, I continued to call and email her a few more times and still no response.

  7. Didn’t realize it was such a universal occurrence. Thanks for the insight.

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