I’m sure you’ve never had this experience: you email something to someone you’re working with, ask them to review it and respond to you with their feedback/answer/opinion.
And they don’t write back.
So you email again.
And they don’t write back.
So you bang your head against the wall and hope it dulls the pain of being ignored.
I found myself in that situation today and turned to the Twitter-machine for help:
Twitter, I need help. What is a more direct way of saying “Please read this” when you want someone to read something? Language must be SFW.
I got back some really helpful responses and thought I’d share them here, just in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation.
@jasonviola advised that I use the phrase “ATTENTION MUST BE PAID” and baring that, I start marking items as top secret because people like to read secret things. I actually like this idea quite a lot; I think it can be used in how you set up your email, like: “I’d like your opinion on this before I go to the rest of the group.”
@beatonna suggested adding the phrase “go over this and tell me…” Stating exactly what you want them to do is always a good idea, and I think you need to do it more than once to get results. I subscribe to that rule of writing that is “First I’m going to tell you what I want, then I’m going to you what I want, and finally, I’m going to end by telling you what I want.”
@kiplet championed Pop Quizzes, or some simple sort of reward/punishment motif. One way he tries to do it is with a follow up IM, Skype or phone call not long after the email has been sent. “Hey, I sent you XYZ; I’d appreciate if you could look it over and get back to me as soon as possible.”
@RaeBeta offered the phrase “…and be prepared to discuss it” to spur people into action. I especially like to use that one in an email I send out before a meeting.
@jemale was on fire with her suggestions! 1) Send a follow up email that details the consequences of not responding, a la “I assume by your silence you are agreeing to….” 2) If you’ve got it, use the “Confirmed Delivery” option on your email. Strangely this makes certain people feel like the email is “official,” like it was sent registered mail or something. 3) If appropriate, make a sign up sheet for people to sign once they’ve read the email. This can be particularly helpful where you need people to act based on your missive: “Guys, the refrigerator is green inside; who’s turn is it to clean?” [Edit: Jenn clarified that she also uses sign off sheets to indicate folks have read a document thus leveraging the powers of peer pressure & deadlines; fine tools if you’re struggling to get people to act.]
@mudron was very zen and suggested that you assume the other person is just overwhelmed or missed the email. Resend the original with a note that says, “Not sure if you saw this, but I need you to review it and get back to me by tomorrow at 10:00.” Giving people a time by which they have to respond also helps them take it more seriously; turns it into an appointment of sorts.
And finally, @GRohac gave some of my favorite advice and I plan to start using it immediately. When not getting the response you need, replace the subject line with “YOU JUST WON A FREE iPhone 4! READ NOW! FOR DETAILS!” or “Having Trouble Pleasing your Man. Ancient Secrets Discovered by a Stay at Home Mom Revealed!” It is especially important to get the punctuation hilariously wrong if using these tactics, as to do otherwise might give you away.
My advice: stop emailing. Call or go talk to the person; do something that requires them to deal with you right then & there.
Categories: Dealing with People