You Just Want to Get It Done: How to Follow Up to Get a Response Quickly


You may want or need to accomplish something, but that’s dependent on getting information or an action by another party. That may be a client, a colleague or opposing counsel. How do you get another to act with urgency without being a jerk or sounding like a spoiled brat? The Muse has some suggestions.

Initial communication may be efficient and timely, but when it comes to actually getting something done or getting a commitment or a decision, the clock may seem to slow down to a crawl. The fact you’re left in a bind can be infuriating.

Here are four suggestions,

  • Don’t apologize for your urgency: You need to be polite and professional but, if you’re waiting for a response the other person genuinely owes you, don’t apologize for taking the other person’s time and attention. You haven’t done anything wrong.
  • Make it easy for the other person: You may have sent multiple emails and left more than one voicemail. Maybe you gave too much information or explained your situation with too much depth. Providing some context helps but keep it simple. Make it as easy as possible for that person to respond. If you’re writing an email, put in the subject line what you need. Use short sentences, short paragraphs and bullet points. The easier your message is to read and reply to, the more likely you’ll get what you need. Include a deadline. Some of us will only do things if they come with a deadline, everything else just falls to the bottom of the pile.
  • Take an alternate route: The person you need help from may get dozens or hundreds of emails every day. Your email may get lost in the daily email pile up. Call the person or if you’re colleagues, go to see the person or mention the issue if you happen to meet in the office. You may risk being seen as a pest but if you need to get something done the benefit may outweigh the cost.
  • Take things into your own hands: If all else fails, inform the person what you’ll do if you don’t get a response in a given time frame. Don’t get angry or blame the person. Be matter of fact and professional. You need to do something, you’re asked for the person’s input, you can’t get it, so this is what you’re going to do if you don’t hear anything by a specific Try hard not to make it appear harsh or threatening. State you understand the other person has things to do, but you have things to do too.

Depending on the situation and your relationship with the other person this can be tricky, and you may have more or less leverage over the person to get what you need. But if you’re in a jam and relying on another to accomplish something necessary, you may need to act to protect yourself and your client and get something done.

Steven Mehta
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