You don’t respond
You’re sitting in a team meeting at work and your colleague asks you a question you don’t really feel like answering. As much as you’d like to pretend you don’t hear her, you have to say something. The same courtesy should hold true for email, but research shows otherwise: An average email user responds to less than 25 percent of email messages received from their contacts. So basically, you’re ignoring about three out of four emails. You get busy. We all do. But if someone you know well emails you a question, clearly they want to know something, and replying is the right thing to do. And good communication is an important job skill. An appropriate response would be even better: When your coworker asks for your quarterly report or your mother-in-law wants to know what time to come for dinner, don’t shoot back “OK.” You know you didn’t read her email, but now she does, too.
You respond to an email, but barely
Researchers at the Yahoo Lab examined more than 2 million users and 16 billion emails over several months, and found that the most common length of an email reply is five words. Just five, lonely little words. Granted, there is something to be said about brevity, and perhaps in some cases, few words are needed. But “have a nice day” or “thanks for your email” is already four words—just saying.