How To Never Have An Email Ignored Again


There’s nothing more irritating than being ignored. Being turned down is bad, but getting no response at all is the pits. It makes you feel invisible, as if you don’t exist.

And it’s a waste of your time. We’ve all been through it: You send an email to someone you’re trying to do business with and they ignore you. Then you send a polite follow-up and they stonewall you again.

So what do you do?

You provoke a “No” with this one-sentence email.

Have you given up on this project? The point is that this one-sentence email encapsulates the best of “No”-oriented questions and plays on your counterpart’s natural human aversion to loss. The “No” answer the email demands offers the other party the feeling of safety and the illusion of control while encouraging them to define their position and explain it to you.

Just as important, it makes the implicit threat that you will walk away on your own terms. To stop that from happening—to cut their losses and prove their power—the other party’s natural inclination is to reply immediately and disagree. No, our priorities haven’t changed. We’ve just gotten bogged down and . . .

If you’re a parent, you already use this technique instinctively. What do you do when your kids won’t leave the house/park/mall? You say, “Fine. I’m leaving,” and you begin to walk away. I’m going to guess that well over half the time they yell, “No, wait!” and run to catch up.

No one likes to be abandoned.

Now, this may seem like a rude way to address someone in business, but you have to get over that. It’s not rude, and though it’s direct, it’s cloaked with the safety of “No.” Ignoring you is what’s rude. I can tell you that I’ve used this successfully not just in North America, but with people in two different cultures (Arabic and Chinese) famous for never saying “No.”

Saying “No” makes the speaker feel safe, secure, and in control, so trigger it. By saying what they don’t want, your counterpart defines their space and gains the confidence and comfort to listen to you.

That’s why “Is now a bad time to talk?” is always better than “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”