How To Get Someone To Follow Through On A Favour Without Nagging Them

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Do you hate sending those annoying “just checking in!” emails, where you check whether the person who promised to do something for you will actually do it? Same. Fortunately, there’s a slightly cooler way to ask for an ETA, without making anyone feel bad.

The email newsletter Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales recommends a strategically delayed “thank you” email:

This one’s a little on the sneaky side. When you ask someone to do you a favour online, and they say they will, don’t respond with your “Thank you” right away. Wait to see if they do what was requested. If they don’t (within a desired time-frame), then send your “Thank you.” It will serve as their reminder. This way, you won’t risk annoying them by sending additional nagging emails.

This is sneaky but not creepy. It’s normal for people to forget to do the things they promised to do, and reminding them is helpful. But nagging them is annoying. So you turn the nag into a happier reminder that genuinely thanks them for what they are about to do.

Where a nag email might make someone resent saying yes, a thanks email makes them feel better about it. (If a polite, non-nagging email makes them wish they’d never said yes, then they shouldn’t have said yes.)

This method isn’t foolproof. If you phrase it wrong, your “thank you” will come across as passive-aggressive or even sarcastic. Your email requires careful timing and wording. Follow these rules:

  1. Send your “thank you” email within a few days or a week: a normal amount of time to “forget” to reply to an email, see it in your inbox, and reply. (Use Gmail’s snooze feature or Boomerang.)

  2. Express sincere thanks. If you have trouble doing so right now, find an old email where you thanked someone for a similar favour or task, and copy it over.

  3. Name a reason that what they’re doing for you is so helpful. Explain why the deadline matters. “Forgot to say: Thanks so much for giving me notes on my résumé! It’ll make me feel a lot more confident when I apply to Zombocom on Thursday.”

  4. Don’t use the phrase “Thanks in advance.” Some people find it rude and presumptuous.

  5. When appropriate, mention that a smaller version of the favour would be great too. (It’s better to mention the smaller option in your original favour request.) Sometimes, having this option will make it easier for the other person to tackle the “big” version of the favour.

  6. If this is about a favour, and not a task that this person really does owe you (like a report from a co-worker), then only send one “thanks” email. Multiple followup emails are cursed, no matter how they’re phrased. If you want to remind them, you’ll have to do so offline.

Thanks so much for leaving a positive comment! And it is so so so nice of you to share this on LinkedIn! Let’s get drinks some time!


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