Get a response in a timely manner.

By Sharon Tanenbaum and Ashley Tate
Updated March 14, 2008
James Baigrie

If your best friend doesn’t call you back, you just keep leaving messages until she does. But how many e-mails or voice mails can you leave someone you have a more formal relationship with before you look like a stalker? And what’s the best way to get a response?

Of course, it depends on how well you know the person and the urgency of the situation. But in the business world it’s customary to wait two to three days between messages to give the person a chance to respond, says Art Ramirez, an assistant professor of communications at Ohio State University, in Columbus, who studies the role computers play in relationships. After the second contact, wait a day before calling or e-mailing one last time.

To help get a speedier reply, politely provide a time frame for when you must hear back, and make no more than three points or requests, says Ramirez. Never add new information in a follow-up e-mail; it should merely be a reminder that you need a response. And despite your own feelings, designate an e-mail as “urgent” only if the recipient would view it that way. As Ramirez notes, “It’s obnoxious.”