My wife and I have noticed a trend lately. People are horrible at responding to messages on getting back to people. Although I trust my wife a great deal, I wanted to find out if this was something that occurred outside of just between the two of us. After conducting a very unscientific poll, what I found was that responsiveness was becoming something of a lost art. It wasn’t that people didn’t get back to you. But it seems as if the speed with which they got back to you was proportional to how much you could do for them.
Due to the insanity of schedules and the incredible amount of information that is available, people seem overwhelmed. It is difficult to navigate through the course of the day, let alone return a phone call or a message that was an urgent or had some action behind that impacted you.
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear, I am both a victim and perpetrator of this unresponsive phenomenon.
What does this say about our interconnectedness? What about our vaunted ability to be separated by one or two people from anyone in the world?
Its both a curse and blessing of being interconnected. Because our expectation is a immediate response anything less is a disappointment. The other lesson we learned is that just because someone agrees to be part of our network, does not equal a lifelong friend or someone that you can count on to help with the job or referral. For the most part, it is important to be clear about the expectations of someone that you are connected to and to always practice the platinum rule.
In order to keep one’s sanity, it’s important that we understand the relationship we have with people in their network.
Obviously, there are going to be some people that are genuinely your friends. These people that you can count on when there is a question that needs to be answered her door a favor that needs to be asked. It is very rare that this is a large group. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
There will be a percentage of people in your network who are the kind of people you can talk to occasionally. But, they’re always good as connectors to other people. Although they may not know you they’re more than willing to say a kind word.
Then, there is the vast majority. According to some statistics, this can be anywhere from 45 to 65% of your “network”. These are the people that are in your network in name only. With all the best intentions between both you and these individuals, there is nothing more to your relationship with them then they are part of your network. It is important that you understand that. If for some reason this is unacceptable to you, is possible to remove people that do not respond to you from your network. But, this is generally not a practice that is utilized by most people. (In full disclosure, this year I attempted to contact each person on my LinkedIn. Currently I have over 615 contacts. After sending each one an individual message I had less than 25% respond). Therefore, it is vital that you understand that the majority of people in your network move the names that you never interact with.
THE PLATINUM RULE
I know that there is a golden rule, but personally I am much more interested in working with platinum. Platinum rule is to treat others as they would want to be treated. Several little differently, do one to others as they would want to be done to themselves. That means that if you want people to respond to you you have to be doubly responsive to others. This is hard because for the most part people respond to you. But, it’s important that you don’t let this deter you from being responsive. It’s important to be responsive because you never know where that is going to lead you.
Another way to think of the platinum rule is a little bit like the idea of “pay it forward“. This was made popular by a movie with the same title. The important thing to remember is that in order to have people respond to you need to be ultimately responsive.
Yes it’s true, we are all far more busy and distracted than ever before. But in order to keep our tenuous grip on reality it’s important that when someone reaches out we reach back to remind him or her that there’s someone else out there.
What do you think? How do you stay connected?
Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.
Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.