I won’t ever return!

Our manners of working differ completely from one person to another. When we add our cultural differences into the equation, the reality that I explained in my last article — how equal to yet different we are from each other — comes even clearer. Yet there appears people who I cannot fit into any culture, or any setting that can be described as corporate or professional. I call these people “the I-wont-returners” and in this article I hope to discuss and understand them, starting with my own experiences and moving forward.

What is being communication-handicapped?

You know some people have better communication skills than others. When they meet someone they have a much easier time creating avenues of conversation. They are the ones that start and continue the conversation, and add to the energy of the group. If you are unlike these people I mentioned, they make your life easier as well and take on the responsibility of leading the communication. And so communication happens, even with one-sided efforts… But this is only meaningful until a certain point. What differentiates communication from transmission is the collective efforts of two sides. It has many components including talking, listening, answering, explaining, understanding and taking care. People labeled as communication-handicapped one or more of these components are faulty, and you can right away know that it is a hard path to thread on. Admittedly, you don’t prefer to expend energy trying to communicate with them. Definitions aside, I-won’t-returners are different. The trick is to understand and do business with them.

For the ones who don’t pick up their phone

As clear from their name, they will not return – not your calls, not your efforts. As a contemporary definition “returning” here can be seen as answering, saying “I heard you and I will return your call/message/email.”
I will share a well-fitting example here. Once upon a time, I had to meet some executive of some electronics brand, once iconic, now long gone from the market. Naturally, I called first, I emailed. Back then people’s personal cellphones were not all so available for work, I kept calling from the internal company line. To no avail. So I tried the company call center, they directed me to call the internal company line. When I told them I tried, they responded “Yes, he does not usually answer his phones.” I asked what to do, and what I got was “Keep trying.” There was no suggestion from them to inform the executive, to make him return my calls, and I did not ask for it. That meeting did not end up taking place. C’est la vie, when the company with the bitten apple logo took the tech world by storm, there was no company to meet anyway. Was it what I observed that created such a collapse? Of course not, but I am sure the hiccups in the workings of the system and culture have had an effect on the result.

What do “I-won’t-returners do?

  • They read the emails, the other side is notified that they have opened the message, but they feel no need to take action regarding this. For them to respond, you need to be the buyer, not the seller. Recent feedback from companies suggest that they see customers getting no returns as well. If they do not even return to the customer, the person ahead of you is definitely a won’t-returner.
  • The new age medium of communication WhatsApp created a new system. The person across from you reads your message, but you are not notified that they do. It is understandable for a youth in their teens. It is a foolproof method for them to tell their parents they hadn’t seen their texts. I was a teen too, I raised one as well. But at work, I don’t understand its meaning. Is it the tendency to buy some time? To avoid work? The fear of communication? What do you think?
  • They hear the phone ring, don’t answer it, and don’t call later. They are either busy, didn’t hear it, didn’t see it, forgot, etc. We are human, yes, we all do it sometimes. But we need to agree this is a topic worthy of careful consideration. It is a matter of discipline, of principle. If there is a golden rule to communication, this is it.
  • After countless emails you’ve sent when you finally got a hold of them on the phone, you realize they haven’t read your emails, even if you received a “delivered” confirmation. Perhaps you aren’t so important among all their work, perhaps they read your email and forgot, perhaps it went as spam, etc. How easy it would have been to simply say, “I received your email, I am not interested, thank you.” Or “I am interested, but I will be able to respond to you next week.” For some reason, this does not happen.
  • The contact us email addresses on company websites are especially unreliable. You can’t even guess, what you write might be heading directly to some trash, to a deep black hole, who knows. In this case, the won’t-returner becomes not the person but the institution. Even if the ones doing the work are human.

One of the CEO’s – I can’t remember the name right now – who I follow and appreciate immensely once set a rule for the people they work with, instructing them to respond to all messages within the hour to prove they have received it, and to send the appropriate response within 24 hours. This rule I found impeccable.
As you might have guessed, I wrote this inspired by a won’t-returner…
I sincerely hope for all of us, day where we hear each other, or at least attempt to do so, and embrace all that works with such discipline and understanding. The business world grows thanks to your efforts.

Isik Serifsoy

CEO Engage & Grow

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