4 hints on how to nudge people who are not getting back to you

Oct 28, 2015 by Brendan Jack

A good business is all about good people. Ideas don’t move mountains - people do. But not all people are top drawer and sometimes we face frustrations. People not getting back to us. People not doing what they promised. People too busy for their own good. Or, people just not caring enough. What do we do? What we can’t do is take it personally, or have a tantrum, or immigrate (unless you have your relocation costs covered and a window seat on the plane).

Aggression rarely helps, and threatening people is not cool. Never be cocky or rude unless you’re a famous comedian or Hip Hop star, or both. Keep in mind that people often simply forget. They are not evil or uninterested – they are simply too busy and don’t know what day of the week it is. Also consider their unseen issues like dealing with bureaucracy and personal problems. Hell, we are often all in the same boat. The treadmill is a common metaphor for today’s fast world. So what do we do? Whisper in their ear. Nudge them. Do it gently, and with a sense of humour. A light touch can often be the spark that sets the stationary ball in motion.


There are many ways to get a response from people. If you call them every 10 minutes on their mobile phone, you will certainly get a response. Most likely not a good one. Have boundaries, never leave a ‘please call me’ under a photo they just uploaded of their kid’s birthday on Facebook.

To nudge someone is to be subtle. A gentle reminder that you exist. Often when a person just sees or hears your name they sit and go “Oy, I was meant to get back to Joe” and voila, they snap into action.

Technology is both our biggest weapon and also our biggest distraction. We are all so busy keeping up with our emails, answering messages on our phones, checking social media, etc. that we tend to let things slip - one of the major reasons people forget to get back to us. The very same technology that keeps us so busy can also be used to get us top of mind again. Go figure.

It can often take a few emails to get a response. A good technique is to send an email a week later, apologizing for mailing again, acknowledging that they must be busy, but saying that you’re just checking back on your previous mail. If you’re cheeky, you can even use words like ‘this is just a gentle nudge’ in the mail. Perhaps follow up with a call or voicemail.

Constantly phoning someone is desperate and annoying. But if you know someone and feel comfortable, sending them a funny picture on WhatsApp, for example, can go a long way. It will make them smile and remind them that you are alive. This simple and delicate nudge can do a lot of good. But don’t go psycho and send something every few minutes – that moves the nudge into stalking territory. If they don’t budge after your nudge, try again in a day or so … sometimes it just wasn’t meant to be. Most times, in our experience, it works.

Visual cues

A very cool and modern way to nudge someone would be to show them a video with their photo in it, posted on YouTube. At Coolfidence we have created an easy to use tool for that. You have to give it a try and you will be a star: just click here to start!

Then we also have a slightly simpler solution for you. The saying goes that a picture paints a 1000 words. A picture also can be gentler than hard and direct words. Let’s say that an office colleague was meant to get back to you on something, and let’s say that they have now dropped the ball. You could send them an email with the subject “You need help ?” or “Just wondering how we are doing” and then in the mail have the following picture :

This image has worked for us countless times. It reminds people that they were meant to do something. Now, not everyone gets it, but most do. And for those who don’t get it, they still get the gentle nudge most of the time. Very often there is chuckle and a smile. Mission accomplished.

Have a look at our visual library for more ideas like this. The limits here are your imagination.

Sometimes sending someone something interesting or entertaining to look at simply works wonders. It brings them some joy and it reminds them that they need to get back to you. Have a look at our different content picks for some good ideas. Sending a short, funny YouTube video link, for example, can often break the ice. If you don’t know them well, try keep it safe for work, not everyone has your cheeky tastes.

If you are feeling brave, then perhaps consider letting them take a chance. Or, you can even show them some respect. These cunning icebreakers can work well via WhatsApp and email too. The Double Take is another compelling one to try.

Create intriguing subject lines

Nowadays you’re competing with endless emails and spam. Create curiosity or intrigue, or propose a compelling solution to the mail reader in the subject line. Everyone’s a marketer, even when it comes to emails.

Keep your mail tight and to the point. No thesis-length mails - respect their time. There’s a reason why War and Peace was a book and not an email. Whatever specifics you need to discuss can always be discussed face-to-face.

Show gratitude

It is respectful and provides a necessary human touch. “Thanks for taking the time to read my mail. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Remind them of a shared bond: “Once we’ve sorted this out, I still owe you a return meal at that Thai restaurant”, or “we need to catch a game in the company box when the season starts.” It reminds them that you have a connection or shared history.

Summing up

Don’t be a spam pest. Never lose your cool. Patience is paramount. And don’t be afraid to gently remind people. Most often the problem is with them and not with you. A calm, friendly reminder can go a long way.

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