It would seem that it would be easier to get a response from someone, anyone, with all the means of communication we have today. When most people have their cell phone (smart or otherwise) with them all the time, it should be easy to call, text or email a response. And since we are all becoming more comfortable with shorthand communication (lol, BFF and other abbreviations) it only takes seconds to respond. So, why is it so hard to get an answer, an RSVP or at least an acknowledgment?
My theory is that usually there is not enough stimulus to make someone take action. Here are some examples:
* There is no consequence or the consequence is not clear.
* Other things are taking the person’s attention and your question is not “loud” enough (i.e. squeaky wheel gets the grease).
* The person is rude or lazy and needs a prod.
* The person has a short attention span and forgets your request as soon as they see or hear it.
* The message did not make it to their mailbox or voice mail.
* Some people just can’t make decisions.
So, is there anything you can do to get that response you need? Yes!
Here is a tactic I have used effectively many times. When you make the request for information, state that if you do not hear from them by a specific date or time, that you will assume _____________ (feel in the blank with whatever is appropriate) and you will proceed with ______________. If it is the first time you have asked a person for some kind of information or decision, you may want to ask them once without a deadline; then after a reasonable length of time (that doesn’t put you in a bind) send a second request with the deadline. No, this is not rude. As a matter of fact it is kind. By providing the deadline, you will let the person know how important their response is and help them prioritize it among all the other things in their mind. You may also relieve them of having to make a decision if you make it for them with your assumption. Another thing to consider is all the other people that are affected if you cannot move forward; is it fair to make them wait because one person cannot or does not respond?
Here are some examples of this assumption tactic:
* If I do not hear from you by Friday at 4:00 pm, I will assume you cannot participate and move on to our next choice.
* If I do not hear from you by next Wednesday, August 12, 2012, (always provide date to avoid confusion) I will assume you are not interested in this project.
* If I do not hear from you by close of business today I will assume you will be at the meeting tomorrow and will let the committee know.
* If we do not receive a bid from you by April 2, 2012, we will assume you will not be bidding on this project.
There are a few risks of using this tactic. You must way the risks and consequences of using it versus the ones of not getting a response:
* You may irritate the person you are trying to get a response from.
* You may get the reputation of being impatient or pushy.
* If you are female you may get called some unflattering names.
* Your deadline message may not make it to the intended recipient. You may want to follow up the message with an alternate method (i.e. If you send an email, follow it up with a text or phone call/voice mail).
* You could even lose a vendor, customer, friend, committee member, etc. But if someone reacts this strongly to a deadline the relationship/partnership was probably doomed anyway.
* Be prepared to be the recipient of a deadline when you are asked for a response. Because some people will retaliate and some people will adopt the tactic.