Do you ever have someone not return your emails for a long time?
Over the summer I had a two-person team not return several emails for a few months. The correspondence was low priority, but I didn’t want to lose the project. They said they wanted to continue, and I believed them. Usually persisting politely without losing patience works. This time it didn’t. It’s easy to get angry, feel disrespected, or judge in such situations—responses I’ve never find effective.
Finally I remembered a tactic that has worked for me each time I’ve used it: I ask if I’ve offended anyone. I wrote:
Hi [person A] and [person B],
Have I offended someone or unintentionally broken a rule?
Sometimes I write it slightly softer, like working the following into a short email
I hope I haven’t offended anyone.
As best I remember, this tactic has always generated a polite response. In this case, after several months without responses, the next day I received an email starting:
My apologies, the beginning of the semester has been quite hectic…
And we met a couple days later.
Did the email tactic work or was it just coincidence? I’ll never know, but I do know it didn’t hurt anything.
I hope you never need the tactic, but if you do, I hope it works for you.
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