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Email Diplomacy

By February 26, 2023Uncategorized

Not getting a reply to an email, especially an important one, is frustrating. The frustration ramps up the longer you wait, and it increases if you send a second email and still don’t get a reply. At that point, you are likely to go through a wide range of emotions depending on your personality. Your feelings might range from thinking the person must be terribly busy and understanding how difficult it must be for them to being furious that they are obviously ghosting you and they should be shot. The reality is almost certainly somewhere in between. Some people are simply more efficient than others. The email browsers of others are bulging with thousands of unread (and therefore obviously not replied to) emails. There are businesspeople that literally have tens of thousands of messages in their browsers and have no hope of ever getting on top of them. These people answer the loudest emails that keep popping up, demanding attention. The bottom line is that everyone is not just like you; you may answer every email that arrives every day, but you are probably in the minority.

The world of business emails is like a dark hole; if you are going to find your way through it and be seen and heard through a tsunami of emails, you have to outsmart all those other communicators fighting to be heard.
Let’s take a look at a situation where you have emailed your boss, a client, or perhaps a supplier, and all you are getting is silence – and this is not the first time. The email was important, you need a reply, and for one reason or another, a telephone call is not going to be acceptable. It is day three, and no reply, and you are sitting there stewing. You decide to send a follow-up email. You have a number of options; you can come across as being offended, angry, sarcastic, rude, humorous, solicitous, or constructive. The first thing to do is calm down and don’t write anything in anger or out of frustration. If you are feeling those emotions, write the email but don’t send it for several hours, or better still, send it (revised) the following day.
The first thing to consider is the subject line. You could show your frustration by saying, “Reply Required!” “Please Reply!” “Urgent!!!!” or, “Need your answer now!” Or, you might try something less inflammatory such as “Following up on the last email,” which sounds okay, but the recipient might then read into it that you are displeased that they didn’t respond sooner.”

The better way to go may be to use something that refers to moving the project or conversation forward, such as “Next Steps” or “Project Alamo – How Can I Help?” or perhaps, “Additional information re: my email of April 1st.”
One other, more surreptitious, way to overcome the non-reply is to send the original email again, with the same subject line as in the original email, and say something like, “I’m resending this as I realize that sometimes emails can get lost in the mix and thought you might appreciate having it at the top of your list,” or, “I’ve had some trouble sending messages from this email address so am resending it from a different address in case you didn’t get it the first time.” The latter may be a white lie, but it does give the recipient an honorable way out for not replying the first time.
Whatever you do, never be rude. The one time you are, two days later, you will discover that the person in question has suffered a bereavement and has been out of the office for a week. Coming back to your harsh email will not help your relationship or the situation. Whatever the reason the person has not replied, being offended, angry, sarcastic, or rude will not help the situation one iota.