I’ve already talked about the greatest responsibility you have when it comes to your to-do’s and that’s following up. Without that, you’re going to fall into a trap laid with, “Gosh, no one likes me.”
Typically we think of our to-dos as getting something to someone. But that is only half of the real task. If my ultimate goal is to get an answer from the contractor by Wednesday, my to-do can’t end at “email the contractor on Monday.” The money, and my success, is made on the return leg, or getting that someone to do that something that I asked.
When the thing you need to get done involves someone else needing to do something for you, your to-do becomes a you-do for whomever you sent the message to.
As luck would have it though, that contractor has his own to-do’s, which are things he finds more important than getting back to you in a timely manner. In a world of everyone putting their to-do’s on the backs of other people, how do some people seem to always get the things they need done in the time that they wanted to?
Through years of experience and research, here is what I’ve found to be the ways to get your you-do’s answered quicker.
Sure, face-to-face charisma is part innate and part skill but anyone can be as charismatic as The Most Interesting Man in the World in an email. How your email is written, (Did you ask about their day? Were you kind?) could speed up the process. The number one rule about email charisma is:
The person you are writing is a human being just like you. They have good moods and bad moods. They show up to work hung over and out of it. They might have a crush one someone at work or their child might be struggling in school.
This sounds obvious but how many times have we sent this email:
Hey, can you review this for me and get it back to by end of the day? Thanks.
If the person you were writing was a cyborg without feelings or their own deadlines, you might be in luck! Trouble is, that is not the case.
Email charisma is like warping to different worlds in Super Mario Brothers. It cuts off considerable time in reaching your ultimate goal.
Here are the keys to email charisma:
Use The Person’s Name In The Email
I can’t tell you how many emails I receive or am cc’d on where the question is stated to no one. Sure, you’re in a hurry and what does it matter if you use the person’s name in the email? She obviously knows the message is for her. Not true. Studies show that we are more likely to get help from someone if we refer to her by name. We really like hearing and seeing our own names. If we see it twice, even better. Using the example above:
Sarah, can you review this for me and get it back to me by end of the day? Thanks so much, Sarah!
Briefly Ask How They Are Doing
This doesn’t need to be a doctor’s check-up-of-an email, but the more you pad your request with human touches, the more the other person feels like she is helping someone she wants to help, not just someone she has to help. So maybe your email now looks like:
Hey Sarah. I hope this finds you well. Can you review this for me and get it back to me by the end of the day? Thanks so much, Sarah!
Acknowledge That They Are Busy
If your email comes off as directive or that it is written without any care as to the other person’s schedule, you’re hard pressed to get the response you were hoping for. Being aware that they have a life outside of this email gets you a lot of points. So maybe your email request now looks like:
Hey Sarah, I hope this finds you well. I’m sure you’re as busy as I am but I was wondering if you can review this for me and get it back to me by the end of the day. Let me know if that is possible. Thanks so much, Sarah!
Give A Reason
There was an awesome case study done by psychologist Ellen Langer. Langer studies and shares her research on mindlessness; it’s fascinating. Perhaps her most famous experiment was called: “The Copy Machine” where she proved that if you were requesting something from someone, your chances increased dramatically if you included the word “because” into your request. Here are her results of different requests asked of people who were already waiting in line at a library copy machine:
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?
- Only 60% of those asked complied.
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?
- Here, 94% of those asked let her skip ahead of them in line.
At first glance, it appears that the crucial difference between the two requests was the additional information provided by the words “because I’m in a rush.” But, Langer introduced a third type of request which is really the one that will blow your mind.
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?
- 93 % agreed to let her cut ahead of them
The moral of the story is that our brains like to find reasons for things. We won’t fight or disagree with it as easily if someone told us why they needed something from us, even if that reason is completely bogus, like the last one above. Of course she has to use the Xerox machine to make copies. That’s what it’s there for! But our brains don’t always differentiate between a real reason and a fake one once the default has been met. In this case, the default is the word: because.
So next time you are calling or emailing someone and you really need to convince them to complete the you-do being sent, give them the reason:
Hey Sarah, I hope this finds you well. I’m sure you’re as busy as I am but I was wondering if you can review this for me and get it back to me by the end of the day because I’m meeting with the owner first thing in the morning. Let me know if that is possible. Thanks so much, Sarah!
Sure, you can use this knowledge of the “because” rule deviously, but that wouldn’t be very nice, now would it.
Don’t just take take take. If the request really is a favor, let her know that you will respond in kind the next time they need something. Itches always do find their way to the most unfavorable places. It’s best if you help each other out. In fact, reciprocity is what our modern civilization was built on. From Robert Cialdini’s, Influence:
“Sociologist, Alvin Gouldner, said that there is no human society that does not subscribe to the reciprocity rule. The noted archaeologist Richard Leakey ascribes the essence of what makes us human to the reciprocity system: “We are human because our ancestors learned to share their food and their skills in an honored network of obligation.”
“Cultural anthropologists Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox view this web of indebtedness as a unique adaptive mechanism of human beings, allowing for the division of labor, the exchange of diverse forms of goods, the exchange of different services (making it possible for experts to develop), and the creation of a cluster of interdependencies that bind individuals together into highly efficient teams.”
So, knowing all this, our email to Sarah might now look like this:
Hey Sarah, I hope this finds you well. I’m sure you’re as busy as I am but I was wondering if you can review this for me and get it back to me by the end of the day because I’m meeting with the owner first thing in the morning. Let me know if that is possible. If so, I owe you one next time. Thanks so much, Sarah!
Does writing this email guarantee that Sarah will comply? No, but your odds will greatly increase. Of course, writing this email takes more time than the original version but it will save you a boat load of time later on explaining to the owner why you don’t have the report ready.