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Friend Asks for Favour, I Helped & He Replies "Sorry I Didn't Reply"

I would like to ask for advice on this situation and friendship.

Context of the Interaction

First, my friend asked me if I had time for a phone call over WhatsApp.
I explained to him about the personal matters I had, and it wasn't a convenient time to speak.
I really had some personal matters out of my control at that time.

Then, my friend proceeded to send an email anyways to ask me for help with some favour.
I presume that he wanted to ask by phone but I told him if it's convenient to talk later so he wanted to get my attention and possibly help by email.

He was asking for personal advice on his business matter.
He owns a small business and manages a small team so I think he's doing not too bad.

However, he wasn't very clear in his initial request so I had to send an email to clarify.
So I had to expend even more effort to clarify what he wanted.

The email exchange goes as follows:

Title of Email: Wanted to touch base with you on this matter

Him: Can you help me with this as its all wrong?

Me: Do you mean the document doesn't reflect your services well?
I am unsure of the context behind this document.

Him: Thanks for coming back to me so quickly.
Wanted to ask if you know of a better solution out there that would be easier in anyway?
Also the reason for the push is we are talking to a country with major needs and wanted to showcase in the best way possible.

Me: (sent a long email)

Then he doesn't reply.

Instead of emailing back, a few days later, he messaged me on WhatsApp instead:

Him: Hi Matthew,
Sorry had some issues.
I am sorting out at the moment.
That's why I haven't replied to your email.
Sorry.

There's a recurring dynamic that he asks me to have a video conference or for some help and then he frames himself as busy afterwards.
He also initiates to meet much more often than me.

Although the relationship is good otherwise as we have worked on other matters together, and they turned out well.
It's a mix of a business and personal relationship.

I'm thinking that I have a few options.

Forget About the Email Approach

Me: I don't recall the context

Or

Me: What email?

I don't really feel like playing the game further although it may be necessary for him to respect my time more.

This may also encourage him to elaborate on his future requests rather than putting the onus on me to figure things out for him.

Assertiveness

Something makes me feel that assertiveness is not suited.
But it's still an option:

Me: When you ask me for a favour and you choose not to reply, it feels like you are taking advantage of my time.

The issue here I feel is that it makes me look like I'm overreacting and overinvesting in the matter.

Frame Him As Needing My Help

Me: No rush, it's your document after all.

Firstly, it says that I'm not in a rush to attend to his matter.
Second, it highlights that he's asking me a favour.
Thirdly, I think it's quite smooth and still opens the door to continue the conversation.

Other Occurrences with Other People

I notice quite a few other people do this sometimes:

Random Person/Acquaintance: Hi Matthew,
I have been quite busy but now have more time to meet.
When are you free?

They want to meet or ask for help but frame themselves as busy.

Not sure if I'm generally coming across as too friendly and available to offer my time to people.

I like to structure my life such that I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule.
However, I don't want people to take advantage of that.

But they are plenty of self-centred people in this world so maybe I shouldn't worry too much about my approach.

I'm also generally not paying much attention or giving much time to these people.
Though I wanted to open up this thread if you have more thoughts.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to leave any quick thoughts here.
Thank you for your time in any case.

Hi Matthew,

It irks me a bit when this happens to me.

In my case, sometimes it happens like this:

  1. Someone reaches out to me for help.
  2. They're prompt in their responses leading up to receiving the help.
  3. Once they receive the help they wanted, suddenly they're taking a lot longer to respond.

It annoys me because I value consistency and fairness. And, when they do this, it feels like they're sub-communicating to me, "You were only a priority when I needed something from you. Now that I got what I wanted, you're no longer a priority."

And, that sucks, but to me, it's also not the end of the world.

Quote from Matthew Whitewood on October 21, 2021, 3:56 am

Assertiveness

Something makes me feel that assertiveness is not suited.

I think that the reasons assertiveness might be appropriate here are because:

  1. This is a pattern of behavior: making this about drawing boundaries can make it feel like assertiveness isn't suited here. But, in my opinion, this is less about drawing boundaries and more about making sure you're being open and honest with your friend about how you feel when he behaves this way. (Here's an example of a similar exchange that went well.)
  2. You have the social capital to enforce a more respectful behavior: both from the passive social capital of your rapport and the giving you've already done with the value you provided.

As with anything, I also feel it's also less about what you say and more about how you say it.

So, for example:

You: "When you ask me for a favour and you choose not to reply, it feels like you are taking advantage of my time."

The "it feels like you are taking advantage of my time" might be overly negative which might make one feel like assertiveness isn't suited here.

But, what if you try:

You: "When you respond sooner before getting my help and then take longer to respond after getting it, it feels unfair. So, I'd appreciate it if you were consistent with how long you take before and after getting my help. If you do that, I think we'll have a better friendship."

Or, you can go for a similar approach to what Lucio recommends here:

You: Hi, how you doing man? Look, I have been thinking about what happened yesterday, and what you said, and I would like to tell you how I feel about it.
It felt unfair when you took so long to respond after getting my help because you were so responsive before.

I think both are honest and open while still being direst enough to enforce a more respectful pattern of behavior — all without being aggressive.

Given that he already apologized though, I think your own advice would actually be great here:

Him: Hi Matthew, sorry, had some issues I am sorting out at the moment. That's why I haven't replied to your email. Sorry.

You: It's all good man. I'd prefer if you respond sooner after receiving my help, but I understand something came up this time. If I can help with sorting out any of those issues, let me know.

*Note: I am writing this under the assumption that you might be viewing assertiveness here as solely about drawing boundaries which can make it seem like an overreaction or overinvestment. But, I view this as openness and honesty with a friend in order to encourage a more fair and respectful behavior that helps nurture the relationship toward a more positive direction.


If you have thoughts on this, Matthew, I'm happy to hear.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood

Thanks a lot, Ali, your perspective and thoughts helped me understand another side to the situation.

I do think that I tend to go for other techniques first before going for assertiveness.
This sometimes leads to bad patterns of behaviours and dynamics in relationships.
Whether in business or personal.
Especially those that I'm unsure whether I consider the relationships to be close.
Semi-close in this context in my opinion.

I may use one of the softer approaches for this event and bring up the general pattern of behaviour on a phone call in the future.
The one you advised seems solid in my opinion:

You: It's all good man. I'd prefer if you respond sooner after receiving my help, but I understand something came up this time. If I can help with sorting out any of those issues, let me know.

If he doesn't get it, then I would go for something stronger like one of the other statements you advised.

The apology came across like a covert power move to me but I may be reading that wrong.
Because I felt that he could have responded shortly to my email:

Him: Thank you for your thoughts and advice on this matter!
Let me give a good think about this.

Rather than sending me a text message over WhatsApp saying that he didn't respond.

Given that he already apologized though, I think your own advice would actually be great here:

Amazing that you recalled this interaction and put its relevance within this context.
Thanks a lot for referencing that past post!

Updates

He may be going through some genuine struggles.
He messaged me at 2am in my time zone (early evenings for him) that he requires

Mark: I hope all is well.
I was wondering if your still up at the moment.
Wanted some urgent advice?

So he was doing a bad meta-question.
Because now I wake up in the morning and have no idea what he's asking.

I think one way to solve this is to tell him my preference in communicating:

  • Concise and to the point
  • Bring up the issue right away even if imperfectly
  • Fast, short replies are okay

I should send him a message something like

Me: Whenever you have a question, feel free to let me know quickly with a few lines on the crux of the problem.
So even if I'm unable to attend to it right away (whether I'm sleeping), I can think over it and possibly give some immediate thoughts upon looking at your message.
Or I may know someone who could advise better than me.
Do call if it's really urgent and important as well.


By the way, I noticed that you have been strategically incorporating some of Lucio's choice of words and style of feedback-giving.
Looks like an expanded arsenal to your already solid way of feedback-giving.

My first question would be:

Is he paying you for your time?

If not, I'm not sure that sending a long email was the best approach.

And also consider that if he didn't get back to you, it's possible that the email was not very useful to him.
So it's possible that you think you gave a lot of value (ie.: he owes you a proper reply, gratitude, thanks, or money), but he doesn't feel the same (he feels he wasted time on this occasion).

At this point, I think that you either don't have to reply (if you realize that indeed there might be a mismatch of "value you think you've given VS value he received"), or I agree with Ali and honest assertiveness is a fair approach.

Ali Scarlett has reacted to this post.
Ali Scarlett
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks Lucio, this helped me understand the situation from another angle of social value exchanges.

He's not paying me for my time.

In my opinion, sending a long email was not the best option.
However, I was unsure of how to break out of the cycle of short, unproductive replies.

One option would be to suggest a call.
However, I didn't have much time for a call on that particular day.

As such, I opted for a long email with questions and potential suggestions to clarify what he means.
But I think a call usually ends up being faster and effective.
Even though it requires me to block out time.

And also consider that if he didn't get back to you, it's possible that the email was not very useful to him.
So it's possible that you think you gave a lot of value (ie.: he owes you a proper reply, gratitude, thanks, or money), but he doesn't feel the same (he feels he wasted time on this occasion).

I have a mindset that, if someone asks for help or advice, then he should invest some time to give me sufficient context to help him.
He shouldn't put all the onus on me to lead the figuring out of the problem and solution.
If I do invest more in figuring out the problem and solution, then I should at least get some credit for my time even though it didn't go anywhere.

I went for ignoring and leaving my long email alone at first because indeed, as you advised, he may not have found the interaction useful and didn't want to continue.

However, what made me annoyed is that he messaged me on WhatsApp "Sorry I didn't reply to your text.".
This framed me as the one needing something from him.
He could have left my email as it is.

I don't know if I'm misreading the situation because, as Lucio has advised me, I tend to over-read 0r emphasise the power aspect of covert power moves.

There's no doubt he behaved poorly in this exchange.

My added points were to enlarge the scope of the analysis beyond this single instance and to see it from his point of view as well -which doesn't make his behavior "right", but potentially "less bad"-.

In any case, you know better what's the balance over the past interactions and based on the personality / relationship.

If it's only one instance, focusing on what to reply right now makes sense -I'd personally ignore and remind myself not to give that much next time-.

But if you start seeing that it's a trend with this person, then the general advice would be either:

  • Go assertive
  • Rein-in the giving / demand more back, see if the relationship lasts (if not, he was only there to take)
  • End it, if it's beyond repair
Ali Scarlett and Matthew Whitewood have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettMatthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks a lot, I appreciate that you were helping me by taking into account the bigger context of the relationship.

I do think that it's less bad as you advised.

In the long-term regard, I believe there are 3 core issues after hearing your advice:

  • He doesn't communicate very well and to the point
  • He somehow thinks I understand his situation more than I actually do.
    Strangely since we are physically so far apart.
    Partially, because I vibe with him well which may cause a skewed impression.
  • Assert some boundaries and set expectations for a healthier relationship as Lucio and Ali have advised.

I will take some time to think and try some things out and see how it goes.

Lucio Buffalmano and Ali Scarlett have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoAli Scarlett
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