A friend of mine has started dating again.\u00a0She had a first date. She and her date exchanged a few texts the week afterward. She\u2019s comfortable with digital communication and the unspoken protocol.\n\n\nApparently at one point he expected a response sooner than she got back to him. His next text said, \u201cWell, you lost interest quickly.\u201d\n\n\nReally? She doesn\u2019t respond according to your timeline and this is your assessment? You can be sure there won\u2019t be a second date.\n\n\nI\u2019ve been there. When you are waiting for an answer time feels far different than when you are on the receiving end. You may be a job seeker waiting to hear back from a hiring manager. You are waiting to hear a prospective client\u2019s agreement to work together.\u00a0You are waiting for a key piece of data from a co-worker.\n\nExpectations and assumptions abound.\n\nI used to complain about this to my own coach. She\u00a0reminded me\u00a0there were a number of reasons for a person to not respond \u2013 most of which have nothing to do with me. It\u2019s easy to make up stories in your head. You create more peace of mind when you don\u2019t make up stories.\n\nWhat you can do.\n\nDon Miguel Ruiz offers relevant advice in his book The Four Agreements. Two of those agreements apply here particularly: Don\u2019t take anything personally. Don\u2019t make assumptions.\n\n\nChecking yourself helps you talk yourself off the edge, or from putting your foot in your mouth. When I\u2019ve checked myself I realize how I could have alienated someone unnecessarily.\n\n\nIf I\u2019m running up against a deadline and haven\u2019t received a needed response, I often go with something like this.\n\n\u201cI'm writing about ___. I\u2019m sorry if I\u2019ve overlooked your response. I\u2019m looking for (whatever) by (this date) to (wrap this up, proceed, etc.).\n\nDepending on the context I might say, \u201cIf you have chosen to go another direction with this (project, proposal, etc.), don\u2019t hesitate to let me know.\u201d\n\n\nYou might have your own version of this type of message. Essential points include:\n\n\nAvoid articulating negative assumptions.\nGive the person one or more opportunities to save face.\nInvite them to tell you what's going on.\n\nWhen the shoe is on the other foot.\n\nI had a strange email exchange this year. I had met a woman in person. We discussed our businesses and exchanged business cards. She emailed me inviting me to get together. I chose not to respond.\u00a0I did not take to this person. I didn't want to encourage her.\n\n\nFive weeks later she wrote me to tell me I was rude for not responding.\u00a0I see her point. Yet I was surprised she jumped to that conclusion without making room for another explanation.\n\n\nI was taken aback by her certainty. I experience people not responding to my emails all the time. They may be friends or respected colleagues. I choose to assume it has nothing to do with me. I follow up if needed, like I described earlier.\n\n\nIf I think it has something to do with me, I ask.\n\n\nYet if I am willing to admit it to myself, I could have responded to this woman with the truth. Maybe I created an expectation by giving her my business card. Admittedly, that\u2019s a stretch.\n\n\nI\u2019m reminded of a TEDx talk by Caroline McGraw titled, You Don\u2019t Owe Anyone an Interaction. You can call what I did rude, or a signal to the person that our interaction was complete. Like Caroline in her TEDx story:\n\n\u201cI wondered if I was being selfish... But then I realized that honoring my own needs is not necessarily the same as being selfish."\n\nLet's assume we're all doing the best we can.\n\nI did my best in the moment with the woman who chose to call me rude. My friend did her best in managing the text she received.\n\n\nMy clients and prospective clients do their best to respond to me. My friends and respected colleagues do their best too. What\u2019s true is\u00a0we don\u2019t have any idea what is going on. Assumptions don\u2019t help us. Our assumptions can lead us to damage a relationship. Before jumping to conclusions, give yourself a minute. Consider alternate explanations. And if needed, reopen the conversation, graciously.