How Can I Get My Unresponsive Friends To Return My Messages?

How Can I Get My Unresponsive Friends To Return My Messages?
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Dear Lifehacker,

I have a friend who sometimes doesn’t reply to my emails, voicemails, or even texts. Or if she does, it takes ages. Is there any way to ensure she’ll respond to them?


Annoyed by No Replies

Dear Annoyed,

That sort of thing really bugs us too. We all have that friend or family member who’s so impossible to get a hold of it feels like you’re getting the cold shoulder. Assuming your friend isn’t actually mad at you for some reason and wants to stay your friend, there may be a few ways to get your messages delivered — and responded to promptly (without feeling like a pest).

Make Sure You Send Your Messages at the Best Time for the Recipient

One possible reason why your friend never hits the reply button is simply the time you usually send your messages. If you friend is in school at night, for example, it’s really easy for any late messages to go completely unnoticed — or opened and then forgotten about because she didn’t have time to respond at that very moment. My family members tend to call me right at the start of my workday (for a reason I still don’t understand), so, similarly, I end up leaving those calls to voicemail even though I would like to talk to them — later.

If you’re sending an email, email marketing firm GetResponse analysed 21 million email messages to find the best hours for sending emails (if you want them opened). Because the majority of emails land in the inbox in the morning, they say those sent in the afternoon have a greater chance of being opened and clicked on. Depending on the recipient, you probably should avoid sending emails during rush hour, child-bathing hour, and dinner time. Photo by GetResponse

Takeaway: If you want your messages to get more attention, try sending them when you know the person is least busy, if possible.

Some Types of Messages May Be Better Than Others

Similarly, you should send your messages in the best medium for the person. People who don’t have their phones with them all the time can’t be expected to quickly respond to all text messages. An avid Facebook or Twitter user, on the other hand, might reply more readily to a message on one of those social networks than, say, email. Photo by Ian Lamont

Even those who try to respond to all messages in a timely fashion (e.g., with the 2-2-2 rule) put email as a lower priority than texts, which is beneath phone calls. I’m not sure what the official stance is on IM priority, but I might put that above even phone calls.

If you are sending an email, though, you can boost its chances of being read and replied to if you follow good email etiquette: Keep your email concise (3-5 sentences if possible), be as descriptive as possible in the subject line (a killer subject line helps), remind the person of any previous conversations in case he/she has forgotten them, and make your request as direct and explicit as you can. Short and sweet — yet still complete — works for all other message media as well.

Resend the Message

Maybe your friend just needs a nudge. Whether she forgot about the message or it never actually went through (sometimes spam filters can be overzealous), if the message is important, go ahead and resend it, saying something like “I wasn’t sure if you got this, so I’m following up to see what you thought.”

Ask for a Reply

Also, if you want a reply, make sure you explicitly ask for it. “Let me know either way” is the one line you definitely should add in your job interview followup letter and it works for other emails as well. Or you could say “What do you think?” or “Please let me know if you’re interested or not.” Even better: “I need to buy the tickets by noon tomorrow, so if I don’t hear from you before then, I’ll assume you’re not interested.”

Get a Mutual Friend to Intervene

Someone else might be able to get your friend’s attention better than you could. Don’t be offended — perhaps they’re just closer or more regularly in contact. If you have a mutual contact, you could say, hey, I’m having a hard time getting in touch with so-and-so, could you forward my message for me?

Don’t Assume the Worst

Finally, your friend probably doesn’t know she’s annoying you, so try to give her the benefit of the doubt and not be too infuriated by this (admittedly annoying) behaviour. You could also talk to her about why your messages aren’t being returned. Something as simple as “Hey, did you get my last emails/texts/calls? This seems to happen a lot, and I know you’re busy, so what’s the best way to get in touch with you and when?” could go a long way towards mending the situation.


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  • Meet your friend face to face, or if that’s a problem, then on the phone – don’t use more electronic messages. Then ask him/her why they won’t reply. Explain how you feel, and ask for an agreement that they will at least acknowledge your messages within a certain timeframe and give you an idea of when to expect a full reply. Negotiate an agreement on how to communicate with each other.

  • as someone who is really bad at replying to messages… eh. Probably sending it more than once will help. But even then, make sure there is an easy to answer question.

  • If your “friend” doesn’t have the common decency to reply to your messages or phone calls they shouldn’t really be considered a friend should they as they don’t really seem to give a damn about you.
    It is simple as that. We live in an age were we have never been so connected so if someone can’t be bother to pick up a phone or reply to an email to hell with them.

  • Find out if it’s just happening to you or if it’s other people too. I was in the exact same position with a friend almost a year ago who would take up to a WEEK to reply to messages… turns out she was like that with everyone – so I gave her an ultimatum – show me the respect as a FRIEND and reply within 24 – 48 hours or I’ll just focus my efforts on my friends that DO reply.

    She never takes more than a few hours now.

  • After days of being unable to get in touch with a friend I decided to take an unusual approach. I sent her a message that I was having a baby. Got a call back within 15 minutes xD

  • Gotta be honest, I am That Friend (not this specific one, but within my own life).

    May I offer a point from the other side?

    Part of the problem may be that you’re just a little bit needy. Maybe I work full-time (and loooong hours), and you do not. Maybe you don’t have a long commute to and from work like I do. Maybe you don’t have extra commitments outside of work. Or, maybe I have some personal business going on, and I do not have the brainspace to deal with you in a light-hearted way?

    …Okay, maybe I’m projecting based on experiences I have with my own friends. Anyway, I know it’s terrible, and that I am a bad friend, but sometimes, maybe it’s that you’re just too much work.

    • And before anyone says it, yes, I know it only takes four seconds to sms/email/smoke signal back a “Hey! I’m well, hope things are good your way!” type thing, but if ‘Annoyed By No Replies’ is like any of my friends, It is NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER a short and sweet conversation.

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