Why You Sometimes Never Hear Back From A Pen Pal

It happens. It's happened to me. Sometimes, you have a pen pal that you just never hear from again. And then we ask ourselves:

Why is my correspondent not writing me back? Was it me? Or is it them? My pen pal didn't write me back; what's next? Did I offend them? Am I annoying? What's wrong with me?

And I can tell you that it's not you; it's them.

That is, if you got started on the right foot.

I have many pen pals. I have pen pals on different continents, aged from early 20s to late 60s. Some have careers, some have kids, some are Christian, some are Jewish, others are formal and a few have really perfect handwriting. I've had quite a few drop away over the years, and I'm pretty sure I know why with each and every single one of them.

But first, here's how I generally get started with a new pen pal:

First letter; give an introduction. Give your name, age, location, job, family background, pets and a favorite color or hobby. End the letter with a few questions. Ask the basic stuff, (they're going to answer that anyway) but also ask them something intriguing.

What was your first instant messenger screen name? If you share with me one of your most embarrassing/memorable moments, I'll reply with one of my own. What is a life lesson you've learned?

I generally include a little something in my letter. Sometimes it's a copy of a neat vintage photo, a sample of tea, a little bracelet....something that fits in an envelope. I feel like this shows my pen pal that I am invested in our relationship and willing to put more than my fair share into it. Plus, your correspondent will have something to talk to you about in their next letter to you; your fabulous little gift!

In summary:

  • Introduce yourself with the basics
  • Ask at least one great question (this usually means it will require more than one or two words to answer it)
  • Include a little something

The Second Letter Great! You've officially got a pen pal. I think you'll be pleased with that first letter you get back; and certainly excited. In the second letter, I generally have a sense about my pen pal. I can pretty easily gauge how our correspondence will go. In most cases, your pen pal will likely ask you questions---so respond!

...And Beyond You'll fall into a rhythm with your pen pal. You'll both get to know each other and you'll eventually find yourself wondering how they are doing...."I wonder if she bought that house......I wonder how the holidays went for him and his family.....I wonder if she liked that tea....." Conversation should be pretty easy and lots of fun.

Reasons Why Your Pen Pal Won't Write Back

Time This is the most common reason. It can be so hard to carve out 10 minutes to sit and write a letter. And let's be real here, it's not the actual writing a letter part that's hard, it's the clearing your mind and actually putting together a coherent statement that's so difficult.

Differences Sometimes, you and your pen pal will have differences; differences that your pen pal may not have any interest in accepting or understanding. While I'm pretty sure this has never happened to me, I have friends who have had pen pals stop writing based on religious or political differences. I've had friends make a brief comment in a letter about something small, and then get a response back where their pen pal is trying to convert them to their faith. Those are never fun. The purpose of  a pen pal is to find new things in the world, learn about them, understand them and accept them. Not to change them.

Lack of Interest Your pen pal might not find you interesting. Don't worry, I think you are! But really, your pen pal may just feel like it's not worth furthering the relationship. Don't get upset about it; it's OK. If this happens to you; consider yourself a letter writing veteran. (I do know people that have gotten letters from their pen pals where they explained why they were not going to write them anymore. Those are always treasured by the recipient, but few and far between.)

Things Not To Do

Don't end your letter with "Write Back ASAP" or "Write Back Soon" or "Write Back Now Or I'll Get Upset." It's really rude and it's going to make you look like a jerk. I usually end my letters with "My Best" or "Looking Forward To Your Next Letter" or something along those lines. Your letter should be good enough for someone to want to write back to. A threat or demand will only increase your chances of that not happening.

I have only one thing in this section because I think it's about the only thing worth mentioning, and that is something most veteran pen pals will agree is something worth avoiding.

Ok, so there's some of my best tips for you from my experiences as a pen pal.

All in all, any letter you send; even if you never get a response, is worth it.

And, in the spirit of great letter writing, if you write me a letter (or postcard), I'll write you back! Cole Imperi PO Box 42831 Cincinnati, OH 45242-0831