I’m a copywriter. I make my living by using words to convey feelings, tell stories, and get people to think certain ways about things. I’m pretty good at it, too. Over the years I’ve convinced CEOs of major companies to have coffee, and the children of Lexus owners to purchase new cars in advance of the cars actually hitting the market. My point is that I’ve had some success writing correspondence aimed at other human beings.
Only lately, things have changed. It seems that there’s a new trend going around which gives the receiver of this correspondence the ability to pretend that the correspondence doesn’t exist. And I’m not talking about people on the receiving end of advertising, either. I’m talking about people I actually know. Even contractors I’m trying to work with are either slow to respond, or don’t respond at all.
Since restarting my company in April, I’ve met with a lot of amazing and supportive people. But the people I’ve interacted with only account for about 40% of all the correspondence I’ve sent out. Which, historically, is a low number for me. Before you think I’m writing pitch letters to people begging them to do business with me, I’m not. As a copywriter, I understand the art of being subtle. Besides, I receive enough hard pitches to know what works and what doesn’t.
And yet, too many private messages, emails, tweets, even phone calls, have fallen on deaf ears–almost as though I never reached out at all. Almost as though I’m a ghost. Or worse, Willy Loman.
I guess I’m an anomaly because I always respond to correspondence. Whether it’s returning a call or text, or answering a direct message or LinkedIn invitation, I don’t leave people hanging. Even people I don’t know. But since April, it seems like I’m on the wrong side of a trend. Clearly, today it’s perfectly acceptable to ignore people.
I get it, you’re busy. But who isn’t? When you don’t respond to direct, personal correspondence, it says a lot about you as a person and professional. It says that you believe you’re too important to be bothered by people who aren’t standing directly in front of you and who don’t represent an immediate return on investment.
There was once a time when the idea of courtesy was taught to children in hopes that those children would one day become productive members of society. There was a time when we’d make eye contact with people we didn’t know who we’d pass in the aisles of the market, or actually use spoken words to acknowledge their presence (yeah, try doing that today.) There was even a time a few years ago when social media was shiny and new and we embraced the idea of serendipity–understanding that the next great idea or friendship could come from virtually anyone we collided with in the digital spaces. Only now those days of courtesy seem to be a distant memory.
We live by a rigid agenda today. With no time for outside interruptions and gratuitous small talk. And no instinctual courtesy to acknowledge that there’s a real person on the other side of the incoming correspondence.
Let’s hope that this trend reverses itself. Soon. Because the world is cold enough without adding to it.