In our world of digital immediacy, most people expect quick replies to text messages and become anxious when they don’t get them. However, just because an instantaneous response is possible, that does not mean we should always expect them.
When so much of our communication is done through texting, how do we deal with late text replies? By asking ourselves five specific questions, we can get a grip on our expectations, avoid anxiety and learn to appropriately respond to late replies.
How Long is Too Long for a Text Back?
After surveying 18 first-year university students with this question, we were surprised at the concurrency of the results.
Although questioned individually, they 100% all gave the same answers.
Here’s what they had to say:
When is a reply considered late (during non-work hours)?
Friend – after 24 hours
Family Member – 24 hours
Significant Other – one hour MAX
How are you affected by late responses?
They cause feelings of being unwanted, unvalued, and extreme anxiety.
For romantic interests, not receiving prompt text responses is a direct indicator of interest or lack of interest, and causes the most stress out of any type of late text message.
2. How Well Do You Know the Person You Are Texting?
If you message someone and they are late getting back to you, consider what you know of their situation before jumping to a bad conclusion.
What do you know about their work or family obligations? Maybe they face restrictions to their phone use due to work policy or have a hectic home life, caring for young children or aging parents.
Ask yourself if it’s likely that they have external forces keeping them from replying quickly?
My husband for example, works in a highly structured environment. He can only get to his phone at very specific times during his work day. So, I don’t expect a response from him outside of those times.
Sometimes, unless I’ve specified that my message is urgent, I don’t even expect him to respond during his breaks. He may need those few minutes to make a call or even unwind a bit with some reading or a game.
Recognize that you may not know everything about their situation and may need to get more information in order to understand their texting habits.
3. What Kind of a Relationship Do You Have With Them?
If you have a close, personal, long-standing relationship with the person in question, you can expect certain behaviours from them when it comes to texting.
Some close relations prioritize answering your text messages, while others may feel comfortable enough with you to put off responding (my teenage daughter for example).
Established romantic partners or parents texting their children usually carry the most clout when it comes to demanding timely replies.
If you are texting a new acquaintance or you are texting them for business reasons, then the speed at which they respond should reflect this.
A text message to a professional who is offering a mobile number as a means of contact should be responded to within two business days.
Try to gage your reaction to the type of relationship you have with this person. You may be expecting too much from someone you don’t have a close relationship with or someone that will respond within the appropriate business time frame.
4. Are Late Replies Normal for Them or Not?
If late replies are common behaviour for this person, you probably aren’t going to change that and are better off accepting the situation.
That doesn’t mean you can’t confront the person though.
I have a friend that I have known for many, many years. She almost never replies to text messages or phone messages for that matter. If she replies, I’m surprised.
I asked her straight out how I should get a hold of her if there’s an emergency. She told me to text and call and say “emergency” at the start of the message!
If the non-responder happens to be a co-worker and texting them is part of the job, you can confront them as well or bring it to your boss to handle.
If the person always responds quickly and then suddenly responds late or not at all, there are a few different options depending on who they are.
If they are a spouse, family member or long-time friend, you may want to use any means necessary to make sure they are okay. Ask someone else if they know where they are or if you know where they are, go see them in person.
Chances are they are fine and may be having an unexpected technical issue with their phone or have another legitimate reason for not responding.
If they are a new romantic interest or a newer friend then send the text, wait for a response and if you don’t get one, forget about it and move on. That’s all you have to do.
Should I Respond to a Late Text Reply?
If you do eventually receive a reply to your text message, based on the nature of your relationship with the person you can either reply or not. If it is a family member or friend that you know will be in your life forever, then sure, reply to them. If it is someone who is just stringing you along and brings more negative than positive to your life, then no, don’t respond.
5. Why Is a Quick Text Response Important to You?
If you don’t need a response for a practical reason or you aren’t in a long-term relationship (of any type) with the person … ask yourself why you are upset by a late response.
Could it be that your ego is tied up with the messaging thing and you are depending on others to make you feel wanted and important through a quick response?
According to my survey, this is clearly the case when it comes to new romantic interests. Late response = rejection. It’s a blow to your self-confidence.
In the majority of cases, late responses DO mean that the person is just not that interested.
It shouldn’t matter though. If this is how you feel after not receiving a quick text response, you need to do some inner work. No one is in charge of how you feel, only you are.
Develop your inner love and strength so that no amount of late replies can ruin your day, week or month.