14 Reasons Why They Haven’t Replied to Your Email (and what to do about it)

email I often hear people bemoan the fact that someone has not replied to their email. Sure, it’s possible that they are snubbing you. But their lack of response is far more likely to have nothing to do with you at all. Don’t take it personally!

Before YOU get upset that someone hasn’t replied to YOUR email, consider the many reasons why this might be the case (paying special attention to #14):

  1. They haven’t checked their email since you sent yours. They might be extra busy, on vacation, not in the habit of using email regularly, or experiencing technical difficulties. Actually, that’s four reasons right there. If it’s that important, give them a heads-up call.
  2. They saw it, but did not open it yet, thinking they’d come back to it, and then forgot.
  3. They opened it, but did not actually read it due to interruption/distraction, and then forgot.
  4. They read it, and fully intended to reply, but got interrupted/distracted and did not have a reliable system for reminding themselves to do it later.
  5. They did not recognize that a reply was in order because they didn’t read it all. Was your email too long?
  6. They did not recognize that a reply was desired because the request was not clear.
  7. They didn’t recognize it as being important to read due to the vague subject line. I’ve even overlooked emails from people who were important to me because they were sent by assistants whose names I did not recognize.
  8. They have so many emails in their inbox that it simply got lost in the clutter. Good reason to declutter your own inbox!
  9. They gave you a different address than the one they normally use, and they aren’t checking the inbox where your email actually went. This just happened to me, with a customer complaining they hadn’t received their digital download order. What can I say? I used the address they gave me!
  10. Your email went to their Junk or Spam folder, which can happen accidentally despite their settings… if they even know they have settings and how to change them… if they even know they have Junk and/or Spam folders.
  11. They set up a rule to forward certain emails to a designated folder and didn’t realize yours would go there and then forgot to check that folder.
  12. The email got delayed or lost in cyberspace. Yes, really.
  13. They read, it and they intend to reply, and have not forgotten, but are not quite sure what they want to say. Maybe they need more info? Maybe a phone call is in order?
  14. Or…uh oh…wait a minute…what if…maybe they really DID reply?! Before asking them about it make sure you’ve searched your own emails, Junk/Spam folders, etc. Each folder can be sorted by sender, date, and subject. You can also search ALL email items to see where it might have gone. Maybe you’re the one who set up a rule to forward certain emails to a designated folder and you forgot to look for it there. Also check your sent messages folder to make sure you really sent it, and to the correct address. I’ve been known to think I sent a message, when in fact it’s sitting in my Drafts folder. Oops!

If I haven’t heard from YOU yet (and I have searched my own emails for your reply, and verified that I sent it) I usually wait a few days. Remember, it’s email, not an urgent or sensitive conversation we’re having. Then I re-send the email with a note: “Resending this in case it got lost in cyberspace. Can you confirm receipt?” Usually I get a quick reply saying you have just been busy and forgot, but this way I have given you an out. It’s not something I want you to feel bad about (if it were that important I would have called), and meanwhile I am not assuming that you are purposely avoiding me!

Do you take email (or lack thereof) personally?

What other reasons can you think of?

Please share in the comments below!

Copyright 2015 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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  1. I really like your perspective on this issue Hazel. If people are always misinterpreting emails it’s easy to understand why they would take non-replies so personally. You really nailed some of the possible reasons and gave your readers something to think about! Great article!

    • Thanks, Liana! I found myself reciting these reasons to others often enough to finally just write them down. LOL!

    • Me too. Or “meeting”….seriously? Maybe it’s the only sort of meeting the sender has on their agenda, but some of us have multiple types of meetings!

  2. Excellent post — we definitely tend to personalize a “silent” response, and it often has nothing to do with us. I like your point about them not reading far enough in to see that a response was needed. For the groups I lead, I try to put a “heads up” about response required in the subject line.

  3. Great list, I usually leave emails from people it don’t have a lot of contact with until last on my list, especially if it is not time sensitive, if you really want a quick response, like you said they should state this in the email.

  4. In today’s instant society I think we expect instant replies. We are so impatient! I like what you’ve said about checking your own spam/junk folder. I’ve found emails from potential clients, sent from my own website, in there. I felt so bad! I taught me that I need to look there more often.

  5. I enjoyed this post! You don’t think about all these reasons when you’re impatiently waiting for a reply, so thanks for clearly laying them all out! I love your point about #14 – thinking you sent your email when in fact it’s still in the draft folder. I actually do this more with texts, formulating a response but never hitting send!

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