The stress-busting power of quick confirmations


We live in a world of asynchronous communication. You send an email, but you don’t know if the other person has received it. You leave a voice mail, but you don’t know if anyone has listened to it. You send an instant message, but can’t tell if your contact has looked at their IM window. In each case, you won’t know anything for sure until the other person responds to you.

In many cases, there is no need for instant gratification. That’s why email works so well: the recipient can schedule and manage and queue their replies to match their workflow. And for urgent matters, there’s always the telephone. But what about the bulk of communication, which is less than urgent but still important enough to warrant a timely reply?

The important-but-not-quite-urgent category of messages tends to be very frustrating. The sender expects to hear something back right away, but all they get is silence. For instance, they might have asked a vendor when an order will be shipped, or asked a colleague to investigate a problem, or asked a friend about some travel dates. In each case, it’s important for the person making the request to know that the other party received it. If they don’t hear anything back within a short period, they’ll feel frustrated and perhaps a little insulted.

What’s the answer? When someone asks you to do something that might be time sensitive (in other words, that person or a third party will be pissed if you ignore the request for a day or more), just send them a reply right away that says “OK” or “Got it” or “Will do”. It doesn’t have to be elaborate — all you’re doing is letting them know that the message made it through. Give this a try, and I bet your customers and colleagues and friends will bother you a whole lot less about the stuff they asked you to do.