Why do people ignore emails and voicemails?

Is it just my perception or have emails and voicemails made people less accessible, less accountable and – dare I say it – less polite than ever before?

Time was – and I speak as a former Fleet Street journalist here – that it was pretty easy to get hold of people by calling them on the ‘phone or turning up on their doorsteps.

If they were out, engaged or just not picking up, you persisted until you finally got hold of them or someone they nominated as a spokesperson. If they didn’t want to talk to you or do business with you, you knew where you stood.

But these days we send out messages into cyberspace and across the airwaves (because no one actually answers ‘phones anymore) that are all-too-easy to ignore. You don’t know whether the message failed to arrive, or they didn’t see or hear it, or it got lost in a blizzard of other messages. So you send another email and leave another message until eventually you feel like you are in the wrong for hounding the people you need to speak to.

These are just a few examples of the unanswered – and, crucially, unacknowledged – communications I sent out more than a week ago:

  • A proposal for a client who had an ‘urgent’ need for my training services;
  • Advice to the manager of my health club that there is a significant health and safety issue with the treadmills at the gym, which led me to sustain a whiplash injury (don’t ask!)
  • A request for confirmation of a provisionally diarised meeting with a prospective client.

I could go on, but I won’t. It’s too dispiriting.

The depressing conclusion I have drawn from this experience is that technological advances designed to facilitate communication have achieved the opposite. We now communicate into a giant vacuum where anyone who wants to evade contact can do so with impunity.

Is this progress?

And is it just me or do others have similar experiences to report?

If so, does anyone have any suggestions about how we can fix this broken system? I’d love to hear from you.

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