Reply to … You: How to Make Your Emails More Respondable

Did they ever receive my email?

Have you ever asked yourself that?

Some people never seem to look at their email. It becomes a black hole.  (Someone close to me who shall remain nameless is one of those people.) While you may resign yourself to accepting that a person isn’t responsive by email, it can be challenging when you need something from him or her and the work culture is one in which email is a standard form of communication.  If that is the case, you’ll need to make your emails stand out. Here are ways you can do that:

Make the subject line do the work.

In many cases, the subject line is the key to whether your email will be given any attention. Create some agreed-upon conventions such as FYI (for your information) or RNT (response needed today) or AYC (at your convenience) in the subject line so that the recipients can more easily decide how to respond when they see it.

Example: RNT – Which sandwich do you want for lunch?

Be concise.

Keep the length to a point where the recipient doesn’t have to scroll much, if at all.

Example: The meeting has been changed to 1:00 pm and lunch will be provided. See you then. (No need to explain all the whys behind the change of time.)

Be warm.

Make your emails an enjoyable bright spot in the recipient’s day. You don’t have to add much, but a (sincere!) warm question or greeting can be effective in building an appreciative and warm culture.

Example: Can you meet at 1:00?

could be replaced with

Hi Beth,

Could you meet at 1:00 today? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Add a deadline.

If you need information by Friday, say so early in the email text, and when possible remind the recipient that it is to their benefit to answer in a timely way.

Example: In order to finish the weekly report before your vacation, I will need the information no later than Friday at 9:00 am.

Use multiple means to communicate.

An effective communicator uses multiple means to get a message across.  Even if email is the primary method at your workplace,  learn which people respond well to email, those that prefer a call, or those who keep up with their texts.  While it can be frustrating to need to adapt to individual communication styles, it can often get you the results you need. Ironically, that saves you time in the long run.

Example: for the unnamed person above, I would follow up with a text or even mention something in passing to them in person. 

Bribe them.

Yep, I said it. Have some fun with this.

Example (toward the closing of the email) There’s a treat in the breakroom for anyone who read this far!

State your alternative plan if they don’t respond.

Let the recipient know what will happen if you do not hear from them.

Example: If I do not receive any further information by Friday, I will assume you have nothing to add and will proceed.

This provides you a reasonable “out” for continuing the work and a “paper” trail for having effectively tried to communicate. Again, this is better if you’ve also tried some of the other ideas given, but sometimes, you just have to hold people responsible for their part in workplace dialog and not coddle them so much.

People say there is too much email, and they are right. Make yours stand out!

Image by Kate Stejskal from Pixabay

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