Often, receiving an email with a “gentle reminder” can feel stressful… and not at all gentle. If anything, it feels passively hostile. And it definitely runs counter to compassionate directness, the idea of encouraging everyone on a team to surface problems and raise questions with straightforward clarity and kindness.
Instead of sending a “gentle reminder,” a better approach would be to say: “I completely understand that you’ve got a lot on your plate, but I need to hear back from you on this today.” This wording is more effective — and better underscores the urgency — because it expresses appreciation for the person’s busyness, but also offers a clear call to action, says Joseph A. Devito, Ph.D., author of The Interpersonal Communication Book. “It also confirms the person’s importance to the larger organization by emphasizing their ‘full plate’ and the importance — the need — of the individual’s contribution.”
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Stephanie Fairyington is a senior staff writer at Thrive Global. A New York-based journalist, her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic (online), The New Republic (online), The Boston Globe, and several other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her spouse Sabrina and daughter Marty.