It’s time for your nephew’s first birthday party. You get an invitation, which you acknowledge and promise to respond to later. Besides, you’ve still got plenty of time.
Two weeks later, you get another friendly reminder. Your sister wants to know if you’re coming so she’ll have enough food prepared. There’s nothing worse than hungry party guests with nothing to eat.
What’s going on in your sister’s mind when you don’t respond? Are you coming? Or are you not?
You’re telling yourself, “Of course, I’ll be there. She knows that. I don’t know what she’s so worried about.”
Meanwhile she’s thinking, “Wow, there’s only a week left to get all this together. Why won’t these folks RSVP? Don’t they care that I want to throw the best party ever? Well, they can just starve.”
Is Not Communicating Even Possible?
So what does your silence say?
At least three things.
First, it says, “I don’t care.”
I don’t care that you’re stressed out.
I don’t care that you’ve got a million things to do.
I don’t care that you want to throw the party of the decade.
Whether or not that’s how you feel, you risk sending that message, don’t you?
The second thing our silence says is, “You’re not important to me.”
We’re all busy. Or at least we like to think we are. So we justify our silence.
How long will your response take? If it’s less than five minutes, your excuse is lame. Let her know you care with a quick and friendly response.
The third thing our silence says is, “I‘m taking you for granted.”
This happens when you think the other person already knows what you’ll say. So why bother saying it?
People will fill in the blanks with something. Do you really want them to think you don’t care, you don’t think they’re important, or that you’re taking them for granted?
How Can You Fill in the Blanks Yourself?
Be proactive. Here are six ways.
Always keep your promises. If you told someone you’d do something, do it. There’s nothing worse than proving yourself to be a liar.
Always keep people up to date. When you learn something new about your situation, tell the other person. She’ll know you cared enough to keep her apprised.
Always tell the truth. If you don’t know anything more, a brief acknowledgement of the fact is better than silence. It’s better for her to think you’re incapable than to think you’re inconsiderate.
Remember you don’t have to share everything. Maybe you know more than you reveal. That’s okay. Share enough to keep the connection going.
Be accountable to what you say. If you told her you’d call Friday, do it. If you promised her an hour’s worth of work, deliver it. Let her know you’re a person of your word. Even better, surprise her with more!
Let her know you understand. Keeping your promises shows you value her as a person. Honoring your commitments says you value her time. People hate to be taken for granted. Don’t send that message.
You really cannot not communicate. Take the time to leave the exact impression you want the other person to have. Do that and you’ll minimize the confusion that comes when they fill in the blanks themselves.
What unintended messages has your silence sent? What did you have to do to overcome the damage and restore the relationship? How could you have avoided it? Share in the comments!