Sending and receiving a follow-up email can be annoying. The sender wishes they did not have to write the email, and the recipient hates to get one. You are either frustrated because you have not gotten an answer or reminded that you have one more thing to do. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Pause before you send that follow up email. There are more impactful ways than saying, “I’m following up” or even worse, “I’m just following up” (the word “just” lessens the importance of your request and undermines your importance). Here are five ways to follow up without saying “I’m following up”:
1. Share an article or update.
Some people see follow-up emails as “pushy.” Identify opportunities to stay top-of-mind without rubbing it in their face and being annoying or brash. For example, share a relevant and timely article that you came across. Or send them an update about a project that impacts their work. Staying top-of-mind can trigger the person to remember to respond to your inquiry.
2. Make your communication personal.
While you may want to follow up about a work related matter, what initiates your follow-up does not have to be about work. People are particularly excited to talk about their personal interests and accomplishments. If you learn through the local paper that your colleague’s daughter recently graduated from college, congratulate them. If you heard they recently returned from vacation, ask about the trip. To reengage the person, first identify what excites them.
But do this only if you are genuine. Do not go fishing for something the person has done in their personal life, and don’t ask about something if you don’t care. Your indifference can come across clearly and make matters worse.
3. Flex your social media skills.
If you emailed the person, consider trying to engage them via a different mode of communication, including social media. Communicating via social media may be more convenient for the other person. If you want answers, make it easy for the other person to communicate with you.
4. Pick up the phone.
If you have a phone, use it. Don’t rely too heavily on email. Calling can be more effective and efficient. Picking up the phone can also avoid misunderstandings. Hearing your voice, with its intonations, can eliminate possible misunderstandings that might lie in the written word.
5. Catch them in person.
If you see the person, leverage the opportunity to connect with them when you are both in the same room. Say hello, ask them how things are going and give the person the chance to respond to your request. Physically seeing you can jog their memory. If the person does not remember that they did not respond to your request, this is your opportunity to ask about what you reached out to them about.
You can follow up without saying, “I’m following up.” The next time you catch yourself writing these words, take a moment and ask yourself whether there is a more impactful way of getting answers and adding value.