Following Up: A Little Habit that Makes A Big Difference

There are those who do things the way the masses do them, and then there are those who have a quality of excellence about them. We tend to trust and respect them more. One of those excellent qualities is following up. It comes from a sense of friendliness, gratitude, organization,  and respect. Following up sets a person apart.  You get the feeling that someone is professional when they wrap up loose ends after a meeting or conversation. It tells you that you are not "out of sight, out of mind" with them.  

We are so accustomed to hearing "Thank you so much!" that it has nearly lost its meaning.   A follow up message lets the person know that it REALLY WAS good to talk to him and reminds him that you have not forgotten about your conversation. 

My husband and I notice when people are responsive and when people are not.  Some have lost job and other ministry opportunities because they waited so long to respond. Either someone else snatched up the opportunity while he dragged his feet or the decision-maker realized that he would not want to work with someone who took so long to respond.  It is a matter of being considerate.  If someone is nice enough to make you an offer, be nice enough to give them a response.

πŸ“"He's really good about responding quickly.  I sent that email out just an hour ago and he has already replied."

πŸ“"He said he would get back with me by yesterday and I haven't heard from him."

πŸ“"It's obvious why she has risen to where she is.  She is very responsive."

I'm beginning to think that not responding is the most severe form of disrespect. I require an answer from my children when I speak to them.  Imagine if you stood face to face with someone and asked them a question and they just looked at you in silence or walked away without answering.  That is a figurative slap in the face.  It says "You aren't worth wasting my breath. You are invisible to me." 

I have felt this way when greeting people I know and they look the other way. In our country, even a smile should be answered with a smile. An initiated communication requires a response unless it is inappropriate. When you know someone that is considered "the nicest guy you could ever want to meet," it is probably because he esteems every person highly, showing interest in them, and responding to every thing they mention.

Let's consider some common situations that require follow up.

✍🏻Exchange of information
If you have announced information, keep people updated on any changes. It would help if you would let them know when they can expect the update so they do not have to ask.

πŸ“"Thank you for all of the well wishes and prayers for my uncle.  He is doing much better and went home from the hospital today."

πŸ“"I am happy to announce that we reached our goal for the fundraiser!"

πŸ“"She played beautifully! We will not know the results until 4pm."

✍🏻Asked a question or given a task
Update people as to your progress from time to time on projects they have assigned you. Respond to texts or emails so that they know you received them. You may not have a final answer for them but at least they know you received the communication.

If you do not get back with them, they might suspect that you never got the communication or that you forgot about it or that things are going poorly. If it turns out that you did not receive the communication OR that the progress is slow, they may be in a bind on the due date. Remember that many managers answer to others so they need to know how the project is coming along. I would venture to say that the one who keeps a manager updated on progress would be more likely to get the promotion. Communication is key. People do not like to be left wondering.

If the ball is in your court, you should be initiating communication to keep others informed of your progress.  It's like when your child has to ask you "Did you like my picture?" That's when you know you've blown it.  They had to elicit your approval because you were too late with it.  Being mature means taking care of your affairs without others having to make you do it.

πŸ“"I got your email and I will get on this Monday."  

πŸ“"The envelopes are stuffed.  As soon as we get stamps in the morning, we will put them in the mail.".

πŸ“"Got it. Will let you know soon."

✍🏻Responding to invitations

The letters RSVP stand for the French phrase "respondez, s'il vous plait" which means "respond, please". My iPhone is obviously not familiar with the term; it auto-corrects "rsvp" as "taco" because the letters are adjacent to one another. Notice that it does not mean "respond if you CAN come" or "respond if you CANNOT come".  It just says "respond". Either way. 

There are plenty of reasons the host would need a response.  Perhaps she has capacity for only twenty and, if you cannot attend, she could give your spot to someone else.  I have wanted to invite a list of people but had room for only twenty.  I had to save spots for those who did not respond in case they DID show up, but when they did not, I had a low turn-out when I could have invited folks that I would really have liked to invite.  It's rude not to respond to an invitation. 

Other reasons the host could need a response is to avoid foods she may know you are allergic to, in case she is personalizing place cards, to be sure everyone has a fellow guest he knows and is comfortable talking to, to have enough party favors, and to know the party can begin because everyone has arrived. 

Some invitations may ask you to respond with "regrets only".  That means the host is holding a place for you until you let her know otherwise.  I have developed a habit of not giving a reason for regrets.  I personally do not expect my guests to explain why they cannot attend and hope that they are not pressured to come if they do not want to explain.  There are times that the reason is just too personal.  Sometimes folks have been going so hard that they just need an evening at home with family to rest. Sometimes family relations are so stressed that they cannot manage to go out and act jolly.  They may be allergic to your pet and do not want to hurt your feelings by broaching such an emotional subject.  There are so many possible reasons and it is not up to me to approve of a reason. I asked if they could come and all I need to know is yes or no. Let's give one another grace and not pry for an explanation. We can be Christlike in this. Jesus invites us to come to Him and leaves it to us to accept or reject His invitation. He does not force us.

If you said you were going to go and now you cannot, let your host know as soon as possible.  Do not be a no-show.  

πŸ“"Just wanted you to know I haven't forgotten about the banquet.  I'm waiting for a reply from a coworker before I know if I'm able to go." 

πŸ“"I really want to go to your party but am just not feeling better yet.  How late can I respond?"

It's nice to give options for another time if you are unable to go. This lets the inviter know that it's not that you do not like them.

πŸ“"I cannot go to your party but let's make a lunch date soon!"

πŸ“"We cannot come for dinner Friday. Do you have any other night this week available?"

✍🏻After receiving a gift or being a guest
When someone sacrifices their money, time, or a great deal of effort for you, you should thank them with a note.  It is not for every time someone holds a door for you or does some simple act of kindness.  A simple "Thank you" will do for that, but when someone has singled you out and gone out of their way for you, a thank you note is appropriate.  

A thank you note left on my guest bed

Keep thank you notes on hand so that you can respond to them quickly while the sentiment is fresh and you do not have to begin with an apology for being late. Mention the gift, party, or favor and express your gratitude for it. Mention how fitting and enjoyable it is or was and of your hope for future use of the gift or connection with the giver.

πŸ“"Thank you for having us over for dinner last night. It was such a treat to walk in and sit down to a delicious meal. I need your chocolate cake recipe! My family talked about it all the way home. The highlight of the evening was the fellowship and laughter we shared. What a refreshing evening with good friends. Thanks so much! See you at Bible study."

We should feel very honored (because we are) when people invite us to an event they are hosting.  I'm not talking about inviting us to somewhere they can market to us and use us as prospects.  That's well and good IF you have shown interest, but for someone to host a party and include you on the guest list is an honor.  I have given many a gathering and I can tell you that it is a lot of expense and work, even if you have it down to a science. 

In today's age of electronic communication, we have no excuse not to follow up with people.  A text within 24 hours of an act of kindness is very nice and adds sincerity to your spoken thanks.   This works fine in place of a note for something that deserves more than just a spoken word.

πŸ“ "We had a great time at the reception last night. Thanks so much for inviting us and congratulations!"

✍🏻After a meeting or event
A follow-up call or note, whether written or emailed, is impressive after a meeting. Just think of it as an online review after leaving a restaurant. Of course, only the positive comments should be made publicly to a friend.

πŸ“"It was very nice to meet you, Bob. Have a great day."

πŸ“"Your lecture really struck a chord with me. I have been wrestling with that very issue and you gave some real help. Thank you for all the work you put into it."

πŸ“"That meeting was well organized and efficient! Thanks for not wasting my time."

You can see how follow up is a very practical way to be an encourager. We all need encouragement and, if you have ever put work into writing or teaching or cooking or ANYTHING, you know that a little appreciation goes a long way and changes the whole experience for you. We Christians do all we do to please God but nice comments from others can keep us encouraged on life's journey. If we know to do this good thing, it would be wrong not to do it. Gratitude is good for the giver and the recipient.

When in doubt, follow up.