I recently engaged in a recruitment drive for softball players. We were a couple players short for an upcoming game so I picked up the phone and called 9 guys I knew were potential subs. I reached two who told me they already had obligations. I left voice mail messages for the others. And even though I specifically asked them to let me know one way or the other, not one returned or ever acknowledged my call.

Is this the new social standard or am I disliked more than I thought?

I understand the inconvenience of returning a phone call. The five seconds to dial, fifteen seconds of social pleasantries, and final ten seconds of saying “thanks for the invitation but I already have plans” can seem like an eternity. Of course you’re under no obligation to elaborate on those plans so it really is possible to keep the entire conversation under 60 seconds.

Or perhaps the universally shared fear of rejection has convinced us that by not returning the call and sharing bad news, we’re somehow saving the other person from this psychologically devastating blow to their self-esteem. In which case, you really need to cut down on how much time you’re watching Dr. Phil. Because personally, I think completely ignoring a phone call is inconsiderate and treats the other person inconsequently. I’d much rather be rejected than ignored.

So here’s another way to view it. By returning my phone call you affirm that I am a person of value that you respect enough to give your time. You also confirm to me that you are thoughtful and follow through with integrity.

And if you’re really concerned about my self-esteem, make it clear you’re rejecting the activity and not me personally. Affirm me, by thanking me for the invitation and maybe even throw in the fact you would really enjoy the opportunity to play another time, but you have to pass on this occasion(okay, if you really think I’m jerk, a lousy softball player, and don’t want to play ball with me, this part is optional).

By taking this approach, you affirm me AND reinforce my positive opinion of you all in less than a minute. A win-win situation. Now that wasn’t so hard was it?