The tragedy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet hangs on the smallest of things: a missed message. As anyone familiar with the story knows, Juliet is separated from Romeo and agrees to an elaborate plan: She takes a potion that puts her in a deep sleep so that people think she is dead. When she wakes, she will elope with Romeo far away—where their families can never bother them again. It’s a daring scheme, and a messenger is sent to tell Romeo what is going on but doesn’t reach him in time.  

Instead, poor Romeo hears Juliet is dead and drinks the poison (real poison this time) to join her. That terrible outcome could have been avoided if they hadn’t assumed that Romeo would get the message. When in doubt, make sure to get direct confirmation from the recipient. If you don’t, you can’t be sure your message has been seen.   

In the modern business world, messages get missed all the time … and projects suffer for it. Sending an email just isn’t enough, especially when an important task is on the line. How can you be sure it was read? How do you know it didn’t go into a spam folder? Too often team members use passive forms of communication (like an email or voicemail) and don’t get a response. It’s not their recipient’s fault, though: the burden of responsibility is still on their shoulders. If you don’t get a response, do what it takes to confirm that the message was received. It’s that simple.  

If one form of messaging isn’t drawing a response from your recipient, use other methods to confirm and verify that your message was received, seen and understood. If that person works with you in the same building, it might be necessary to ditch various digital efforts altogether and just have a face-to-face with them. Always take an active approach. 

Key Takeaways

  • Focus on active, effective methods to communicate with colleagues and clients
  • Exhaust all possible methods—from phone calls to face-to-face meetings—to confirm that your message was received and understood
  • Apply indirect pressure to your recipient by cc’ing the team on emails and underscoring the importance of their response
  • Get a response before relieving yourself of your responsibilities

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