Polite Ways to Nudge a
Response to Email

Sending Emails

Sometimes it’s necessary to nudge a response from someone, particularly in the case of email.  We are all busy, with lots of information coming at us at what feels like a constant, rapid pace.  When certain messages aren’t handled immediately, it is far too easy to let them sink unnoticed back in your inbox. Especially when new emails are coming through, demanding your attention!

However, when a well-intended nudge crosses the line into what feels like a push or a shove, the boundaries of “polite” have been crossed.  No longer is the shield of courtesy in place. Things can begin to feel rude.  

We definitely want to avoid this edgy experience.  But on email the bind is there, as you really do want a person to respond to you.  It’s only a guessing game when it comes to knowing why the recipient of your message hasn’t responded and it’s not polite to ask why you haven’t gotten a response.

While You Wait

As you walk the tightrope of waiting for someone to respond to your email and deciding if you should nudge a response, your mind may play with various scenarios of following up or how you will react when you finally hear from the person.

In order to remain in polite territory, keep the following suggestions in mind:

  • Keep your emotions in check.  
  • Don’t accuse or insinuate impoliteness.
  • Evaluate whether you are trying to correct the person for putting you out of sorts. 
  • Reassess all the possible reasons your email has gone untended:  over-full inbox, opened and slipped into opened mail, person has been away from email, and so on.
  • Make a note to yourself that if you haven’t heard by a certain date, you will reach out.
  • When that time comes, assess whether you want to respond at all.  Some things may be better left unvisited.

When You Nudge a Response

”Words are sacred.  If you get the right ones in the right order you can nudge the world a little.” 

~ Tom Stoppard

We’re always sensing the waters of “polite” to know where and when to put the oar in. Whether you choose to be subtle or direct when you nudge a response from someone, always intend to be respectful.  Even if your gesture is not read that way, you’re in an easy line for a quick apology.

Next, decide if you should send a new email or if you should forward the previous message chain with your response request.  This will depend on the importance and type of the information in the message chain.

Forwarding your previously sent email:

  • “Hi John, I’m wondering if there is anything I can do to help with this form.”
  • “Hello Kelly, I hope this doesn’t feel like I’m rushing you.  What do you think about this plan?”
  • “Hey, good morning, Charlie!  This is just a little nudge to say that we should get to solving this soon.  Looking forward to it.”
  • “Mary, this probably slipped into opened mail. Curious what you think.  How should we proceed?”

After the salutation when sending a new email:

  • “Regarding the Johnson offer, may we consider a deadline?  I'm available if you'd like to speak by phone."
  • “What are your thoughts about our upcoming meeting on Wednesday?"
  • “I am reaching out and hoping all is well.  We haven't been in touch.” 
  • “Just wondering if you received the invitation to our party this week.  Please let me know if you and Charles can come.  We sure hope so!”

It helps me to remember that when I get an email, the guideline is to respond within the first twenty-four hours.  My response may be that I intend to respond later, but at least the person with whom I am corresponding knows that they are a priority, “John, I received your email and will get back to you this week after I have a chance to work on our proposal.”  

We are all busy people and things slip away from us.  This is why it is completely appropriate to nudge a response from someone.  The key is to do so etiquette-fully, keeping kindness and respect at the forefront of your reminder.



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