When and How Should YOU Respond to a Message?

There are many opinions on how quickly you should respond to messages, regardless of the method. How swiftly you should reply to a message all depends on the complexity and timing of the message. Just take a moment to reflect on what you currently do when you receive a message. Do you stop everything and respond to that message? Do you wait until you finish what you are working on and work on the message? Do you only check messages at certain times and respond? Or do you check the message to see if it is urgent and respond when needed? There are different variations and there really is no right answer, but there are socially acceptable answers.

We believe we need to answer all inquiries immediately, but in reality, that is not the case. We need to respond in a timely manner, but it needs to be done thoughtfully. We are evolving more into a digital world and expect results right away. Sometimes we just need to slow down. If you are in the middle of something and you receive and email, you can glance to see if it requires immediate attention, otherwise you can tend to it at latter time. When we respond too quickly, we may not have addressed the initial concern of the message or even misread the request.


It is true that people today expect instant responses to any message and we generally accommodate this because we feel we are obligated, or it will be perceived in a negative way otherwise.

But the reality is we should not reply immediately, we should pause and see the urgency of the message, give yourself some time and how best to respond in terms of the context, content, channel, and contact.


If you need time to respond to the message here are some tips:


Acknowledgement: You can use “Got your message.”, which is more of a confirmation than it is a response to a message. Depending on the situation you would use this to just buy yourself a little time to put together a proper response, to ensure your recipient knows you received the message and will be working on it.


Expectation Setter: “Received your message. I will have a response by ________.” This provides immediate response of acknowledgment and time to work on the reply.


No Reply: Do not respond. Depending on the message waiting for 24 hours might be the best thing. Depending on the situation it can be the best response and may work to your advantage.

Just remember, no matter the type of response you choose they all carry consequences. Make sure you are comfortable with the feedback you may receive.

Just remember, no matter the type of response you choose they all carry consequences. Make sure you are comfortable with the feedback you may receive.

Once you have a response in mind, you just need to consider the best way to craft your response in terms of context, content, contact, and channel.



Context – Understanding the initial message and composing a response with the right context is key. You will want to know who the parties are in the conversation, review relationships or inter-dependents and previous conversations. Know what is at stake, is this correspondence going to be with third parties or will it have any repercussions.


Content – Delivering the message in a clear manner with the right tone and style is a must. Before sending the message ensure you have the right content by checking facts and being consistent with past discussions. Ensure the facts of the message are organized and focus on delivering them in the clearest, most understandable, most consistent manner possible. Proofreading your response if you choose to use email or text is imperative. To appear professional, take a moment to verify your message delivery, if not, “auto correct” will be certain to remove all your credibility.


Contact – Who should be responding to the message received. Frequently we get requests for something and fail to realize that we might not be the best person to respond. Whether someone else has better knowledge or better suited to respond especially on a critical issue where a single person of contact is better. A good example is a negotiator or mediator where there is a single point of contact. It also has an open contact method to ensure clear communication and ensures everyone is on the same page.


Deferring to someone else is not a bad thing, it just means there is someone better suited at addressing this particular question, this happens frequently during everyday work and it is why we have leaders to guide us. Even if the sender has copied many people, please be wary when responding as ‘reply all’ might not be needed. Consider the person sending the message, what seems to be their intent, is it legitimate, is it gossip, who is the best contact to respond, or should you even respond at all?


Channel – Remember, just because you received an email does not mean you need to respond by email. When responding you need to decide which is the best channel to respond to the query. Email and text have a disadvantage as they often lead to misinterpretations and misunderstanding, as both parties do not have the instant reactions to correct themselves to improve the message if it is misjudged. It might be more efficient and effective to just pick up the phone or meet in person to respond. Emails and texts are great to send factual information that will avoid miscommunication and will not spark a debate, such as, a spreadsheet of data or summary of a meeting. But when there are items to resolve, sometimes having a conversation works the best as you can resolve it quicker and avoid miscommunication.


The pressure to respond fast is growing rapidly, but the value of a proper response is growing as well. Working towards developing better communication through all channels is more beneficial and meaningful to all of us as it serves everyone better. The saying, “Get it right the first time,” comes to mind, instead of spending a whole day exchanging messages back and forth, you could have spent one hour of your time to resolve the query, instead of mending any problems that arise from your initial response. The “trigger happy finger” needs a break. At the end of the day, it does not matter what department of the organization you represent, you are providing a service for an internal or external customer.


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Stagecoach Payroll Solutions – “Your Canadian Payroll Solution”

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