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Never Hold Your Breath


I’m taking a scuba class right now. One of the primary laws of scuba diving is, “Never hold your breath”. This is because it only takes very small variations in pressure to collapse your lungs.

I’ve been told more than once, by friends, family, and clients that I’m not responsive enough. This has always been a challenge, as my nature is to wait until i can formulate the right response. However, I rarely end up with enough time to think through the perfect answer. So I hold my breath and hope that i can get back to them soon.

The problem here is one of managing expectations. For example…

Client: Peter, could you please tell me what it would take to do XYZ?

Me: — no response —
(thinking: I don’t want to do XYZ. Telling the client that I don’t want to do it is going to take a lot of thought. I have some fire drills going on right now… i’ll get to this later.)

Me: — no response —
(thinking: gosh, it’s been a week and i still don’t have time for this. I wish i’d have made time for this before. I wish i’d have set the client’s expectation and told them that i wouldn’t have time. how do i tell them that i haven’t done anything in a week. maybe if i hide it’ll go away.)

Client: Peter, it’s been two weeks. I haven’t heard anything and i’ve tried calling, emailing, IMing, sending smoke signals, telepathy, blackmail, and Strip-O-Grams. All I asked you to do was XYZ. I’m going to start a national press campaign to defame your service. You suck. I hate you (ok a bit extreme, but I bet they are thinking that).

Me: — no response —
(Shane, I messed up. Can you please fix this mess?)

Avoid the Silent Treatment

I’ve since learned that there is always a right response in that situation that doesn’t require a huge deal of formulation.

I just wanted to let you know that I got your message. My schedule is pretty full right now so I will make time to formulate a thoughtful response before Xxxday next week.



In a nutshell, people need responses more than they need answers. When you scuba dive, you only need to exhale tiny little bubbles to prevent your lungs from exploding. In life, you only need to write tiny little emails to keep your friends, family, and clients from exploding.

P.s: sorry, dad, for not getting back to you.