Since I never heard back from you...
It's a phrase we reach for when we've waited long enough.
It's meant to wake up the receiver, provoke a response, or declare a new direction.
Despite its harmless intention, the feelings it invokes can lead to resentment or dissolution of important relationships.
No one wants to be called out for their lack of action.
"Since I never heard back" sends a message of failure. It's a power statement that might get things moving, but only after an apology or defensive reply.
It could be said with zero animosity and still exude an air of superiority and shame.
Anger is one of the easiest emotions to access. Some of us even look for an excuse to go there. "Since I never heard back" gives people permission to beat themselves up and unleash their silent rage.
I imagine most of us have been on the sending AND receiving end of this. With over 80 percent of all business communication happening online, it's probably one of the most commonly used tactics.
I teach an approach that's meant to inspire a kind response, rather than guilt-laced excuse:
Dear Joe, I noticed our communication dropped off. Did I miss an email with your reply?
Notice how different that feels?
"Our communication dropped off" states a fact.
"Did I miss an email with your reply?" accepts responsibility.
Notice I didn't end with "Please let me know ASAP." That tiny addition takes the soft tone of the reminder and turns it into a demand.
My mother and I used to bicker on the phone when our calls got dropped or when we could no longer hear each other.
She'd say, "Erin, your phone is acting weird. What are you doing? I can't hear you anymore!"
Then, I'd revert back to age 13 and scream, "I haven't moved an inch, Mother! Maybe it's YOUR phone that's screwing up!"
To avoid the blame game, we now simply say:
Oh, we seem to be disconnected. Can you hear me alright?
Once again, it's helpful to state the FACTS instead of making it a personal error. And it's courteous to accept partial responsibility. I mean, this is technology we're talking about here.
Who knows whose cell phone is sketchy or whose email wasn't received?
And does it matter anyway?
Try this approach and see how it goes. You'll likely find the receiver responding quickly, taking full ownership, and maybe even saying, "Thanks for your graciousness."
And if you receive a "Since I never heard back" email, take a deep breath and go into compassion for yourself and the other person. You both want to feel better. You both seek resolution.
Here's a classy response:
Dear Jane, I apologize for the drop off in communication. Yes, I'm available to meet next Monday at 3p.m. Thanks for following up with me.
1. No excuses necessary.
2. Get straight to the reply they seek.
3. Acknowledge their effort to reconnect.
It's important to notice if your speed in replying frequently doesn't meet the expectations of others. If this is the case, create an automatic email reply that gives them comfort in knowing when you'll respond.
Thanks for your email. If you need a reply in the next 48 hours, please don't hesitate to call me at this number. Otherwise, I'll get back to you shortly.
We can teach others how we want to be treated.
This simple change in wording can build instant respect, rapport, and results. It also puts you in the position of being a communication role model.
Words matter. Choose them wisely.
Follow Erin Donley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RevealWhatsReal