Get a Response with Curiosity, Persistence and Humor

fingerfaceHave you ever submitted a proposal or applied for a job and then waited… and waited… and waited to hear if you were selected?

If that’s ever happened to you, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the longer you waited without a response, the more sure you were that you didn’t make the cut. Right?

You probably figured that if you got the job, someone would let you know as soon as the decision was made. It’s fun to deliver good news. But if you didn’t get it, they’d delay because giving bad news isn’t much fun.

But I’ve learned that sometimes your assumptions are right… and sometimes, they’re just plain wrong.

Seeking a Response?

Recently, Arnold, the director of a trade association invited me to give a workshop to a large fundraising trade association. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to take the job which seemed a bit intimidating, but Arnold persisted, contacting me several times. So finally, I wrote a proposal and emailed it to him.

By return email, he thanked me and told me that his committee would meet the following week to review the program and make the final decisions.

The appointed day for the committee meeting came and went with no word from Arnold. The next day I emailed him.

“Hey Arnold, has your committee made up it’s mind?”

No response.

I felt my “uh-oh” voice warning me that I must have been rejected.

A few more days went by. Still no response. So I sent another email to Arnold.

“Hi Arnold, My schedule for the fall is starting to fill. Should I continue to hold the dates?”

Again no response.

This time, I felt a twinge of irritation. I don’t like to be left dangling. I’d much rather know that I’d been rejected. And I was darned if I was going to just let it go.

Use a Little Humor to Win Over Your Audience

So a few days later, I tried again. But this time I decided that a bit of humor might do the trick. And I used a subject line that I thought might get him to open my email.

Subject: Personality Types: What’s Yours?

Dear Arnold,

I know you’re a persistent type of guy. You came after me to submit a proposal, not once, not twice, but three times! And then you got back to me promptly once I sent you my proposal.

I believe that most people are pretty consistent. So I’m puzzled that I haven’t heard from you.

Now it’s entirely possible that your board decided they wanted to bring in someone prettier or younger or cheaper or whatever. But for someone like you who communicates well and is persistent, your lack of response doesn’t make much sense. So, I figure that maybe you got fired. Or perhaps you were run over by a car as you rode your bike to work and you’re in the hospital with several broken ribs and a banged up knee.

Or who knows, maybe I made the whole thing up… that happens to older folks sometimes… though I hadn’t really thought myself in that category yet!

In any case, as you can tell, I too, am persistent. I like to think the best of people. And I don’t like loose ends.

So, humor me, Arnold. Tell me what happened!

I do hope you are not in a hospital.  I hope your board didn’t fire you for suggesting me.

In fact, I hope you’re having a ball.

With warm (and curious) regards,



Within two hours, I had my response.

Dear Andrea, You’re so good. 🙂 My board is dithering. They’d like to talk to you for a few minutes to get a straight-from-you account of the session. I do think that it’ll work; they have SUCH a love for this that they really just want that firsthand talk. Would late this week/early next week work for a call?  Arnold

Persistence and Humor Did the Trick

It would have been easy to stop emailing Arnold.

Or to send an irritated email.

But it was much more fun (and effective) to add a bit of humor to my dogged determination.

People respond better to humor than persistence alone. I had fun with it and I think Arnold did, too. And, who knows, perhaps I’ll even get the job that I wasn’t so sure I wanted in the first place!

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Try a Little Humor to Get a Response

The next time you are waiting for someone to respond to you about something important, instead of assuming the worst or getting annoyed, try a little humor. Don’t be sarcastic or nasty — use your humor with tact and good manners. You might just be surprised by how well people respond.

Have you ever used humor as a way of lightening the mood and getting something in return? Tell us your story in the comments below.