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How to ask someone to do something for the second, and third time


If you've asked someone to something and they said, "Sure, I'll do that right away" only to find out later that they haven't done anything, it can be quite a challenge. As a teacher, I got a chance to practice this a lot. And I found that asking for things the second, and the third time, was a fairly common thing.

If you're someone who follows through on their promises and gets things done when you said you would, it can be confusing when dealing with people who need to reminded, again and again. In my experience many people simply forget. They say, "Sure, I'm on it" and they never think of it again. And so the reminder for a lot of people is something that they actually rely on. Many times people promise a lot, and then wait to see who bugs them. To me, it seems a strange system, but it's how a lot of people work. They do a kind of "snooze alarm" on their promises.

So, if after waiting an appropriate amount of time, I've gotten no response from someone who has promised something, I will do a gentle reminder. Keep in mind that for a lot of people, that's really the first time they actually get motivated to move. And of course, politeness is the key here - if you get angry, then they will just consider you a jerk (because remember to them, this is the first, not the second, request).

The third time you ask someone to do something, you will need to explain it all very carefully as if they had never heard of it before. And that's because chances are that they are feeling very bad about not doing the thing they promised, and their emotional state confuses them. I've seen it a lot. This is where you have to explain very patiently and carefully. This is the time to put a little bit of command and force into it, but nicely. Remember that these people are used to being yelled at a lot, so they will want to apologize profusely. Take the time to accept their apology, listen patiently, then re-explain from the beginning. I've seen a lot of people become amazed that I didn't get mad - they were waiting to be yelled at, and I can recognize people who've been yelled at a lot.

After the third time, it's time to either give up, or apply some serious force. This is the time to see if a supervisor can help, or if other arrangements can be made so they can get help. Sad to say that there's no way that the person can't see that you've pretty much given up on them being able to accomplish the task. I pride myself on not giving up on people, so if it's nothing urgent, I put it out of my mind, and write a little reminder on my calendar. Of course, if it's urgent, I'll escalate my requests, making threats, and as a manager of mine once told me "letting people know that I'm unhappy".

I like the idea of giving people a chance to do stuff. Speaking for myself, I like to do stuff that other people ask of me. And if I slip up, I love it when people can follow up, and check on me with something like "How ya coming along with that?"