You made everything perfectly clear by email. Now what?

There are many options in trying to find out what happened to a well-crafted email. Here's what to do...

July 08, 2016

There are many options in trying to find out what happened to a well-crafted email. Here's what to do.

CREDIT: Getty Images

For all of its problems, email is still the best way to message people--to clearly state your proposal, an idea, your resolution to a problem or some other subject that needs attention. You can craft your message, elaborate the way you want, and clear up any misconceptions. It can turn into pure email gold.

Except, when it doesn't.

Let's say you've done everything correctly. For whatever reason, the email was not received as intended. It wasn't your fault, because you communicated the right way. You now have a few options. A few of these options could work if done correctly. Some of them could cause more confusion. Only one is the best approach when this happens, even if you think there's an obvious answer (hint: the phone).

Don't ever do this:

There's a temptation in the modern work culture to stay silent as a way to voice your opinion. Silence doesn't have a voice. It's silent. If you sit on an email for more than a day or even a few hours, expecting someone to finally figure out what you mean, they won't--even if you write like Shakespeare. (To be honest, if you write like Shakespeare, people might not understand you.) People don't go back to an email and read it a few more times until they understand. They read and delete. Maybe that's unfortunate, but it is the reality. You might be 100% perfect in your communication to someone but the recipient is not 100% perfect in how they receive it. Instead of silence...

Try doing this:

Your email was note perfect in every way possible, but you know there's something not quite right. Now the temptation is to send a follow-up email with more information or as a reminder about your first email. That can work, and I know many people use this technique. "Hey, I know you might have some questions about my earlier email, so let me know if you received it." The problem is that it's easy to see how this is annoying or looks like bugging. Maybe the recipient doesn't want to reply yet or maybe that person has nothing more to say. Yet, you still need an answer. That's when you should consider using a totally different approach...

Always do this:

You might think the ultimate answer is to pick up the phone, but that's not always an option and can even lead to more confusion. Also, it depends greatly on the email you sent and to whom. Was it to an investor, a customer, or your buddy across the cubicle wall? In each case, you have to evaluate whether it is better to send a follow email or make a phone call. Because I know a phone call is not often an option these days, I find an alternative way to communicate. I send a tweet sometimes, but usually I reach out on LinkedIn. It's amazing because it is a small "pop" of a reminder, just enough that it works.

Here's the logic behind this. You should trust that your original email was clear and communicated effectively. As Yoda would say, trust your instincts. The recipient maybe never read it and maybe never will, and a follow-up email or phone call might not work or even cause more consternation. What does work is a follow-up on a different messaging platform because it sticks out. You are reinforcing the fact that you sent everything you meant to send by email, now you are pinging a reminder.

One reason I know this works is because I've done it and people then respond. More importantly, people do this with me and it also works. Like most people, I don't answer the phone unless the contact is stored on my phone, so that's not a good option. Like most people, I don't like when people nag by email. But on a social network? That person is acting intelligently. He or she knows I can read email but I'm also busy. It's the perfect way to send a reminder about a perfect email.

Try it right now. Find the perfect unanswered email you sent and look up the person on social media, then ask if that person received your email. 

Thanks to Inc.


    What is it you are looking for today?

    Do you have an idea what you are looking to accomplish with us?

    Select on one or more of the services below to best describe your requirements.

    Where did you hear about us?

    You have our undivided attention: