My wife occasionally sends me text messages which, in my mind, do not require a reply. You know, things like a status update or a quick note that she’s running late. It’s informative for me to know.
However, I didn’t know that such things require a response. She told me that she would like a response, just to ensure that I got the message…or to let her know that I’m still alive.
So, our standard response to messages of seemingly non-required response is this: “Not dead.” This two word phrase can mean “I got your message. Thanks.” Or “Sounds good.” Or “Hmm. Interesting.” Or even “I am, in fact, still a member in good standing with the Living Bipedal Organisms on the Planet.”
Anyway, it struck me that the informational cues that I take for granted, might not be so universal. If my wife and I don’t share all communication understandings, how then am I messing up with readers who refer to publications I write? My wife and I have an established relationship. The relationship has created lots of room for each of us to understand any potential misunderstanding.
In business, however, there is no such relationship. You have to meet the needs of customers, and meet their needs where they are–in locale, emotional state, or technical expertise. So you don’t have latitude to let a message slip through, offering no response.
My advice: never let a message go unanswered. Even if the message isn’t a question or something that wouldn’t merit more than a “hmm” in face-to-face interaction. In digital interaction, you have to acknowledge that the writer has been heard from.
Or at least that you’re not dead.