I ignored an email earlier this week. I read it carefully, mulled over their request, and then simply deleted it. It felt great.
It was from someone I didn’t know, but we had a mutual acquaintance. They wanted something from me and I was unlikely to benefit from engaging in the conversation.
Am I a jerk for not responding? Perhaps I should have, at minimum, offered a quick “no thank you” or “I’m not up for the task.” I’ve witnessed many bemoan those that ignore messages.
The answer to this question is likely a matter of context. Who is reaching out? And why? On balance, we should do our best. But most importantly, being realistic about our availability and interest should be the priority.
The more interesting question, however, is why did it feel so liberating to not respond? Anyone can reach us in a matter of seconds. Plus, societal expectations lean towards responding, not ignoring. But in this specific case, it felt great to exercise my right to protect my time and my ability to choose who is in my network.
You won’t get very far (or feel very good about yourself) if you always act with self-interest, refusing to engage with others that need your time or expertise. But at the same time, you won’t last long if you think you can field every single request. Be purposeful in your responses, or lack thereof, with those you don’t know.