Actually, I'm NOT sorry for the delay.

Scenario: I receive an email at 8am from an acquaintance / business contact who I haven’t connected with in at least a year. They’re writing to ask if I’d be interested in collaborating on a non-time-sensitive project. I reply to this email at 10am the following day and my email begins with “Sorry for the delay…”

Why on earth have I just apologized??

It seems like there’s this new trend of nice people apologizing for taking a completely acceptable amount of time to reply to emails and digital communication. Yesterday I had someone reply to my non-time-sensitive email only five hours later in the same business day and apologize for the delay. And then I felt bad because she felt bad. Totally ridiculous.

I vote we stop.

Now, if someone expects a response from you and three weeks have passed, by all means, acknowledge that with a “pardon the delay” if that feels right to you. And if something is time-sensitive, it’s a different story. But the everyday “sorry’s” with regular communication are starting to feel dangerous, and here’s why:

Unnecessary apologies perpetuate an idea that we’re doing something wrong by taking our time. We knock ourselves down by assuming we should be able to handle it all immediately. Even “please forgive me” (a classy little phrase I’ve come to use on a regular basis) implies that we aren’t measuring up.

For all the sender knows, we’re in the hospital, or on vacation, or — I dunno — having a totally typical day where we’re processing a million other things. But the increasing speed of technology has led us to all unconsciously agree that we need to be available every second of every day — even if we’re climbing Machu Picchu — or on an airplane — or giving birth. …No joke.

We’ve been suckered into believing that every email, social media post, tag, comment, and emoji needs to be responded to in a timely manner. Except “timely manner” has been redefined as “ASAP.” But when everything is defined as ASAP, how are we to prioritize? How are we to breathe? How are we to focus? How are we to rest?

On the flip side, let’s all stop freaking out and making up stories when we don’t get a quick reply. Nope, that person who isn’t responding to you right away doesn’t hate you. They just have a bunch of other shit to do! Honor that space for them, and in turn, we can teach others to honor it for us. One way to teach others? Own our timelines. Confidently and kindly respond — without apology.

Maybe the stress of the fast-paced digital world shows up in other ways for you. So whatever it is that overwhelms you and makes you feel like you’re not keeping up, take a step back and think about your ideal pace and any tiny steps you can take to move toward that. Sometimes the other people involved won’t even notice you’ve made a change. But you will. And that’s the ballgame.

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    Fay Wolf