Take Your Time On Emails, But Respond To Text Messages Quickly!

from the how-rude! dept

Last year, we noted a study that said many people purposely responded to emails fashionably late at work, because replying to quickly implied you didn’t have too much work to do. However, it appears the situation may be somewhat different when it comes to instant messaging and SMS text messages. A study in the UK among office workers found that many consider it to be rude if you don’t reply to IM or SMS messages quickly. It’s the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communications — and even if email and text messaging may seem similar, it appears people have different expectations of what type of messaging they’re using. Of course, the results are far from certain. The percentages of people who felt this way were all less than half — with the majority simply saying that they didn’t think there was any particular time period in which someone needed to reply before it was considered rude. That makes the most sense. It seems that most people, hopefully, recognize that people should reply at the most convenient time for them — not for the original sender. Still, the fact that opinions vary suggests that we’re going to be hearing plenty of stories of messaging misunderstandings in the near future.

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Comments on “Take Your Time On Emails, But Respond To Text Messages Quickly!”

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Happy User says:

I am no DOG and I will not "come" at anytime you "

oh please…

I dont jump when you snap your fingers – nor should I need to reply quickly when you send me a text message.

I am providing a service of being able to get to me in an alternative fashion when I happen to be busy elsewhere. Whats to say that my SMS/CellPhone is turned off and that I wont get the message until later. much later… Or whats to say that I dont feel that replying to your text message is as important to me as what I happen to be doing right at the moment…. such as driving or out on a date or at work having my time paid-for by an employer… or even on a “group’s” shared time at the movies.

Either way, I provide a privilege to others by letting them know that they can SMS me when I would otherwise be unavailable to everyone else… I am no DOG and I will not “come” at anytime you “whistle”.

Jason says:

Respond when you want

When i get on to check my email and somebody requests something in that email i will get it done as fast as i can and get it to them. when i get a text message i will respond when i have time or respond with a short quick message. answering their question. i don’t use texting for chat, it’s a one question system to me.

MT says:

email vs IM mediums

When you use an IM program, it displays to other users your status (online, offline, away). People msg’ing you can see if you are there or not. The IM also flashes or pops up alerting you to a new msg. When someone sends you an email, there is no way to tell if the person is at their desk or has their email open. Emails are also easier to store and read/respond at a later time. IM programs don’t really allow this. They are designed for an online conversation. The differences in the email medium and the IM medium account for much of the difference in response times.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: email vs IM mediums

I disagree about IM storing messages as several clients allow for this though I know for certain that MSN doesn’t. A friend and I use a popular IM service and he will send me a message while I’m offline, when I get it, I send a message to him, usually offline. No biggie. We use it because we know that as soon as the other comes online, they will receive the message since their client starts upon reboot, as opposed to email where they have to tell it to start and then it’ll tell them if they have email….who it’s from, etc.

Either way, I am often away from my desktop/laptop and my IM client is set to show me online whether I’ve been idle for 1 or 100 minutes. I respond when I respond and not a minute sooner. Besides, I consider my time more valuable than 99% of the people I deal with on a day to day basis.

muskratt says:

If someone wants me to answer promptly they should have the common sense to actually call me. I never email important information or text it. After spending a year in Japan having to rely on text messaging I found it a lot better coming home to a warm phone call, or lack of I might say. It’s annoying when people can find a way to annoy you with text messages and expect a prompt answer. I use to shut my cell phone off because I was getting charged huge bills and getting woken up in the middle of my well deserved nap because some drunk girl wouldn’t stop talking about how she ended up with money in her pockets and didn’t know why. Emails are equally annoying. It allows people who are too afraid to call to be equally annoying and stalk you. Then again, just like a phone number, an email adress should be given only to people you figure won’t abuse it.

If my teachers don’t answer to my emails in a timely fashon when in fact they should according to their job description, then why should I have to immediately respond to my grandfather asking me when we’re going to go visit them?

Point being, text messaging is no professional way for getting a message across, is not a serious method of communication and anyway, the person receiving it gets charged so prompt reply shouldn’t be expected. I don’t even accept text messages most of the time since they usually end up saying something stupid like “I’m hungry and bored”…

Brandy says:

Normally I expect a person to reply to a text message quicker than an email, just because they’ll probably check their phone before they check their emails… not to mention a 100-or-so character text is easier to write than a paragraph long email.

Actually…personally I’ll respond to text messages faster than missed phone calls. At least in the text they state their purpose and what they need…a missed phone call could be anything.

taxciter says:

Focus and be happy

and do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

I can’t stand a roommate or colleague who simply yells out for me without even checking what I’m up to at the moment. I have a long-standing history of ignoring non-emergency cries from the next room, and when I want attention, I go face-to-face. My email and IM habits are an extension of this principle, i.e., be deliberate, real, and complete, and don’t demand focus in return – ask nicely for it.

thecaptain says:

IM vs Email

To me IM is instinctively more akin to face-to-face conversations in some respects, much the same way as email is to old fashionned letter writing.

IM, as someone pointed out above, displays your status…and if that status is available…sending a message and getting none in return (in a short time) sends the instinctive message “ahhh that person is ignoring me!” same as if you walked up to someone in the office and said something and that person failed to acknowledge you. It takes a little thinking (and IM experience) to realize that status isn’t entirely accurate most times…it may show someone as available but that person might be in the kitchen having a coffee, on the phone or in the bathroom. However, that “available” status belies all that and draws us to expect an immediacy that may not be real.

Email however bestows no such immediacy. Its a “fire and forget” system…we send the email and hope it will be read and responded to, but we don’t see the process, the status of the recipient nor when the email is read (unless you have some email receipt system set up…and even then, it just shows it was opened, not read).

HP says:

It’s interesting that a person would rather assume that someone is ignoring them than assume that someone is busy at the moment. This seems rather conceited, I think. It reminds me of a boss that used to snap his fingers at me to get my attention, rather than speak to me.

IM is not the same as face-to-face dialogue.

So be irritated with me if you so wish for not INSTANTLY responding to your finger snapping. My life does not revolve around you.

thecaptain says:

Re: Re:

It’s interesting that a person would rather assume that someone is ignoring them than assume that someone is busy at the moment. This seems rather conceited, I think.

I wouldn’t say its conceited necessarily in this case…perhaps more a matter of conditioning. The “Instant” in Instant Messaging gives us the illusion of immediacy we get in say a telephone conversation and the “status available” provides the illusion of presence you get from seeing a coworker/friend at their desk. It takes a small effort to reverse that conditioning as it were.

Zeroth404 says:

Its quite irritating waiting for someone to reply with an Instant Message. If the conversation is important (ie business related) than one should respond timely as if it were. Then again, I rarely have IM conversations that are important. Then again, I rarely have IM sessions at all.

*please please please move away from the AIM/AOL servers*

Tyshaun says:

The old fashioned way...

I’m pretty old school when it comes to IM and stuff. I have an IM account, but it’s primarily a replacement for the telephone if I want to talk to people far away (to save on long distance). People know that I don’t have the IM on most of the time, and if I am logged in I’m probably in the middle of talking.

My basic feeling on e-mail is that it’s the same as any other business correspondence. It will be answered in a prompt an efficient manner as soon as I have the chance to consider what is being asked, and carefully construct the response.

My bottom line point is this, communication technology is your slave, not the other way around. If you clearly state to people what type of response they will get from a particular media, they either learn to use it properly or get politely ignored. My friends know that they can call me on my cell phone at anytime before 11pm and if it rings at 11:05pm it better be some kind of emergency!

The key is to communicate communication expectations with people!

Anonymous Coward says:

The way i see it:

IM – i’m always shown as online but not necessarily at my PC or available to chat. I’l get your message and respond asap. If at any point im online the same time as my contacts its often a (poor) replacement for face to face conversation

E-Mail – Not too dissimilar to IM but normally used for longer messages. I’m always allerted to when i have new mail so its no different to IM in that respect however i’d very rarely send an e-mail only one line long but would quite happily IM someone somethin that short and possibly pointless.

SMS – Used more frequently then i call people on my mobile mainly because i’m a student and so are most of my friends. I dont know when they are going to be in lectures, they probably dont know when i’m meant to be busy either but a text message is there for them to pick up and reply to whenever they see fit. A sort of random mix of e-mail and IM put together in that the messages are always short but i’d rarely use it for a full conversation

Just as most people here have said – i reply to my messages as soon as possible assuming im not doing something more important and I expect people to do the same for me. I dont mind if people take a day or two to reply to e-mails as i know not everyone checks theirs daily. If your signed into IM then i’d expect a reply by the end of the day if nothing else, assuming im still online myself – surely you people look at your pc to turn it off at night ?!

The one thing that annoys me though is when people completely ignore communication ! Refusing to respond to an SMS invite to the pub is NOT to be mistaken for a “sorry, no, cant make it” its just plain rudeness. Ok, some people may not receive their messages until its too late to be worth replying to but to continually ignore SMS (and this is the main culprit i’ve found for some reason) is just rude.

Eric (user link) says:

Communication paradigms

Email, IM, and Phone seem to all fit on different places of the communications spectrum. In my mind, IM is by far and away the best option, but they all have their place.

I regard email as a presentational medium, and as such try to reserve it for when I need to communicate substantial amounts of information at once (make an argument, write many paragraphs, send out notices to many people, etc).

IM is a far more conversational medium, which I think is how most people prefer to communicate – one of the surprising things to me when I entered the business world was watching how many users use Outlook as a pseudo-IM client, firing one line emails back and forth. Besides the extra strain this put on our exchange server, it struck me that they’d be better off with a real IM client. (This is why I love the Gmail/Talk integration, as a concept – now if I could just get more people to use it).

The phone is more immediate, but I hate it because it’s *too* immediate – to the point of being both intrusive and interruptive (and annoying). I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of standing in front of someone and being being de-prioritized to a phone call. Compared to the phone, IM detects your presence, lets you multitask better, and isn’t *as* demanding of your immediate attention. Which is why I like it better. (Although I enjoy using Skype, as it at least partially corrects some of those gripes).

Zeroth404 says:

“It’s interesting that a person would rather assume that someone is ignoring them than assume that someone is busy at the moment. This seems rather conceited, I think.”

“I wouldn’t say its conceited necessarily in this case…perhaps more a matter of conditioning.”

Logically: if you ask someone a question and they dont reply, its because they’re busy doing something else. The fact remains that whatever they are doing is more important than you, or they forgot about you. Either way, it can be taken a little offensive, and justible so.

Stian Ovrevage says:

Content, speed and formality.

First off, I mostly agree with the findings.

I also understand the social context as beeing workers communicating at work, not communication between friends and family.

I believe the reason the results are as they are mainly because of a few key factors; content, speed and formality.

Content is a function of the technology. Selecting the medium on which to transmit a message largely depends on the content. I’m more likely to send a lunch invitation to a co-worker over SMS than e-mail. I also expect a reply within reasonable time, of obvious reasons. And this is the nature of most SMS’es I send and recieve. Short informal messages that can be written and replied to without to much associated work and research.

Speed is also a function of technology. Speed also relates to content. I usually don’t expect a 5-minute reply to my job-application or request for some documents I might need. It would be nice, but I don’t expect it. That mostly because I don’t expect everyone to have their e-mail readers open 24/7 and be ready for reply. I do expect someone to check their e-mails several times a day though, and a reply within reasonable time. E-mail also has another availability than SMS/IM. Most people carry their phones everywhere at all times and it takes seconds to punch a fairly-ok reply. E-mail on the other hand requires much more effort. Go to workstation. Log on. Open e-mail. Read many e-mails. Process the contents of the e-mail ( do work, delegate work, find answers ). And then write a reply.

Formality is a function of relationships. I’m not asking for a raise by sending an SMS. Neither am I gonna transmit my latest research paper over SMS or IM, for all the mentioned reasons, content, speed and formality. E-mail has many advantages over SMS/IM in terms of formality. It can be formatted, it can be practically infinitly long, include attachments and more.

The result is that short, somewhat time-critical, informative messages and the like makes up much of total SMS usage, and that heavier, slower, messages often end up as e-mails.

I have largely ignored IM because my organization does not utilize IM as a means of communication at all. I have also written briefly and ignored many factors such as ease of archiving incomming/outgoing communications, trackability, cost, infrastructure, integration etc.

Bottom line; A very intresting case-study relating to many intresting fields such as technology and group-psychology!

jaw says:

Re: setting up emails alerts

Want your phone to tell you when you have email. Yahoo has an easy set up. Each email you open has a link to tell yahoo to send a message to your phone when you get a message from who ever you tell them to. Firt time you try it it gets you to set it up with your number. After that it’s just a matter of adding people to the list

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