There is an art to writing emails. Some people have a natural ability, where others may find that it's the most time consuming part of the job. There's a lot to be mindful of: the tone, the length, and whether or not it successfully communicates what you're trying to say.
There's nothing like re-reading an email you wrote, making adjustments and feeling confident enough to hit send. But then what? If a response isn't made within an ideal timeframe and you need an answer sooner than later, how do you navigate the reminder email?
Following up is always encouraged, but it can be difficult to ask for a response without seeming pushy. We're here to help with that.
1. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
As a whole, we're conditioned to feel normalcy in being constantly connected to one another. We're used to receiving answers almost immediately online, and are confused when we don't. While instant messaging has helped make life more convenient, it’s also distorted our perceptions of what a reasonable response time is. So, before drafting a follow-up email, reflect on your timeline expectations. One tip for crafting that follow-up would be to write it and leave it for a day without sending. If you receive a reply within 24hours of the draft email, then you don't need to send it! If you don't and feel good about how it's written, go ahead.
2. Be kind.
No one likes to chase people down. However, you never want to let your frustration shine through a follow-up (or any) email. Emails do get sent to junk and sometimes people are dealing with so many other situations that they just haven't had a moment to get back to you yet. It's okay. We're all human!
Try to refrain from using language like, “I still haven’t heard anything from you,” or “I don’t understand why it’s taking you so long to get back to me about this.”
Most of us don’t respond well to hostility. So, give people a break and write as if you assume they never saw it.
3. Explain why you're following up.
In this day and age, we're all busy. When it feels like your to-do list is never ending, it’s difficult to think of anyone’s workload besides your own. For this reason, it’s important to remind the recipient of why you’re following up. Of course, the reason will vary depending on the situation, but it never hurts to warmly check in and make sure they received your message.
4. Try other methods.
Email is the go-to method for professional communication, but it doesn't have to be the only way of getting in touch with someone. Why not pick up the phone? Sometimes email isn't their preferred way of communicating, and it's easier to translate tone in a follow-up when you're actually talking to the person.
If you’d rather stick to email, you can make adjustments there too. If you sent your previous email in the morning, try sending your follow-up in the afternoon. Sometimes the key is catching someone at the right time of day.
5. Have a deadline.
Including a firm end date in your follow-up emails can be very effective. It is possible that the person you're trying to reach is unaware of when they're expected to reply and may subsequently prioritize other things in front of it. Telling them of a deadline puts the ball in their court and takes the responsibility off of you.
When all parties know when something is due, it eliminates the chance of miscommunication and allows everyone to be on the same page.