It’s a tough world out there — everyone’s busy with work, family obligations, and other stresses of everyday life. It can be really easy for anyone to forget about a particular commitment or an important task that they have to accomplish.
When this happens, what’s the best way to remind them? Through a quick text message? A phone call, perhaps? Maybe through email?
Here are some tips on how to politely and effectively remind someone to do something:
Senior Editor, Tandem
As a business professional with 25+ years of experience, I have been on the giving and receiving end of politely reminding someone to do something.
Though we all generally try to do the tasks we promise to do, we sometimes need an extra nudge. Below are some ways you can politely accomplish this:
Send an email to get the person’s attention
Emails may seem old-fashioned to some, but emails might be just the tool you need to get the person’s attention, depending on the person you are asking.
Another advantage of emails is your “paper trail” (which, in all fairness, is now an “electronic trail”) will show the exact date and time that you made your request.
Of course, when sending the email, be sure to incorporate all the common courtesies — please, thank you, I appreciate it, and the like.
Send a text message
Some people are more responsive to texts than emails. It might be that texts pop up and are more visible on their phone screens, or simply because they always have their phones on them.
Whatever the reason, take advantage of this and if you need to remind someone to do something, nicely do it with a quick text. As with emails, you should still be mindful and respectful when making your request.
Visit the person to get what you want or need from them
Some aren’t able to accomplish something until the task is right in front of them. For people such as this, you might need to visit the person to get what you want or need from them.
If you ask for something they already promised you, they shouldn’t be offended that you showed up.
Above are ways that you can politely remind someone to do something, but these aren’t the only things to keep in mind. No matter what tactic you use to ask the person, remember:
Refrain from being demanding
If you say, “Can you please sign the check I am waiting for?” instead of saying, “I need you to sign the check right this minute,” more likely than not, the person you are asking will do this for you. It’s not always what we say but how we say it.
Ask them in a nice way
This was mentioned above, but it bears repeating as integral as it is. Remember to say things like please and thank you. There’s a reason that when you were younger, your parents called these “magic words.”
People magically are more inclined to help you when you remember to use niceties.
Ask them directly
There is no reason to beat around the bush. It’s acceptable to explain what you need someone to do directly. Remember that there is a difference between being direct and rude, so tread that line carefully.
If you ask directly, nicely, and without being demanding, you’ll likely get someone to do something they promised to do.
CEO and Founder, Pray With Confidence
No matter what role I have played at a company, there has always been a time that I’ve had to remind someone to do something. I needed a way that didn’t have to change from person to person; finding a cookie-cutter, the one-size-fits-all approach was crucial.
So I started to experiment during my time as a manager and found a method that not only worked for employees; I now use this with my kids too!
Let people feel that they value
When reminding someone to do something, people respond differently when asked a second time. Some people will want to jump and do it right away. Others get embarrassed and then defensive.
However, everyone shares one thing in common. We all want to be valued. We can use this to create gentle but uplifting reminders by taking one unique aspect we have in common.
Start with one compliment about the person’s work
I always start with one compliment about the person’s work. No matter how small, I find anything to tell the person they are doing well.
Next, I insert my reminder for whatever it is that I need them to do. After that, I end with a general compliment on how they are doing with the specifics.
For example, I may say:
“Hey Sally, I appreciate you being so organized. Is there a chance we could look at you organizing the inbox again? I know we touched on this last week, and I really appreciate it every time you do it.”
This works outside of the workplace too. If I have to remind my kid to make his bed, I’ll say:
“Hey, there’s nothing I love more than seeing you in the morning. I want to make sure you’re making your bed before coming out of your room. Thanks for keeping it clean besides that!”
What if the gentle approach isn’t working?
Be extra gentle to create an overall good experience
A few people tell me that this approach is too gentle. My opinion is that people will never forget positive experiences with us, even if they don’t remember exactly what we said.
So if we have to be extra gentle to create an overall good experience, we may have to risk not getting things done right away at the beginning for positive results in the future.
If you have someone who is truly not working after trying a few times, I would recommend two next steps.
See what it is that does make them feel valued and have a one-on-one conversation with them
First, see what it is that does make them feel valued and work by that approach. If that is still not working, I would then sit down and have a 1:1 conversation on what may be going on that they need to be reminded about things.
John F. Tholen, PhD
Retired Psychologist | Author, “Focused Positivity: The Path to Success and Peace of Mind“
Make a respectful but direct request
Our best hope of altering another person’s behavior—persuading them to do what we want—is usually empathic self-assertion.
We are most likely to increase the odds of getting what we want and minimize the odds of offending or alienating the other person by making a respectful but direct request—one that attempts to honor our wishes and feelings while at the same time displaying respect for those of the person we are addressing.
Assertiveness falls in “the sweet spot” between passivity and aggression. Whereas passivity fails to make our feelings and (their importance) clear and aggression implies insult or intimidation, self-assertion involves making a direct statement of what we want without hostility, threat, or disrespect.
Empathic self-assertion is the best way
Empathic self-assertion often contains three components:
A preliminary expression of understanding that might encourage compromise
- “I know you have a lot on your plate, but…”
- “I understand that it’s been hard to deal with…, but…”
- “Our relationship will always be very important to me, but…”
A middle statement of the problem or conflict—the reason some change or action is wanted
- “I can’t complete this project until I get your report”
- “I need the car to get to today’s event”
A final straightforward expression of belief, feeling, opinion, desire, or personal rights
- “Please review that document today”
- “I’ll need the car by 2:00 pm”
According to Miss Manners, the most appropriate way to respond to the quest we prefer not to comply with is: “I’m so sorry, but I won’t be able to help you out this time. I hope you’re able to find someone who can.”
The best way to politely remind someone to do something would be empathic self-assertion such as:
“I know you have other pressing issues to address, but I’ll be in a bind unless [my issue] is handled today, so please make sure that it gets done—and please let me know when it has been completed.”
Certified Health Coach, With the Humbles
Clarify with them when the task needs to be completed
Reminding someone often feels a lot like nagging, and no one wants to be a nag. However, the task still needs to be completed.
When asking someone to do something, whether it’s household chores or a project at work, or a task for a client, I don’t assume they will do it.
I will clarify with them when the task needs to be completed and how they want me to remind them. Using their own words often feels less like nagging and more like a reminder.
Some of the ways I approach this are:
Reminding them they already agreed to it
- “Hey, sorry to interrupt you, but we agreed you’d _______. When do you plan to complete this?”
- “Hey, remember when you said to remind you to do _______? I’m sure you haven’t forgotten, just wanted to follow up on my end and remind you.”
- “I am just checking in on the status of _______. When will you be able to fit that in?”
- “I know you’ve got a lot on your plate. Will you still be able to _______, or do we need to shift that to someone else?”
- “I hate to be a pain. However, you said you were going to _______. Do you still plan to do this? Or have plans changed?”
- “I’m reviewing your goals and see you said you wanted to _______. How’s that coming? Do you need assistance?”
If it’s a routine household chore that they don’t want to do but is part of their “job duties”
- “I know this isn’t your favorite thing, and I don’t want to get onto you, but _______ still needs to be done. When can you have that completed?”
- “I’m catching up on my to-do list and noticed I haven’t gotten your reply about _______. I cannot proceed to the next step until this is completed.”
- “I need you to [task] by [date/time], please.”
We all know things have to get done, and no one likes being micromanaged. Adults have responsibilities, and plans change.
Related: How to Deal With Micromanagers
However, if we commit to performing a task, we need to follow through or make arrangements for that task to be completed by someone else.
By doing this, we remain trustworthy and with integrity. I’ll be the first to admit that occasionally things slip through the cracks of a busy life. I prefer to be reminded a time or two than to miss a deadline.
Use a calm, controlled voice
Using a calm, controlled voice, not yelling or calling names, goes a long way when asking someone to do something or reminding them of it. Sharing responsibility is key, too.
Accusations and pointing fingers make people defensive and less willing to help, whereas reminding them that they are part of a team/family and others are relying on them helps them feel important and needed, which they are. In turn, they want to do their part.
Reminding someone in the workplace is not much different than reminding your child or spouse. Your tone of voice is the beginning.
Director of Marketing, Focus Insite
Don’t wait too long
When you are anxiously waiting on someone else, it is easy for frustration to build up. For your sake, don’t put off the conversation for too long. Doing so may influence your approach and tone, which could aggravate the situation.
Also, be careful not to nag. If you communicate clearly what you need from this person from the beginning, hopefully, you won’t have to.
Approach the person in a one-on-one conversation setting
No one likes to be called out in front of others. Bringing the subject up in front of peers may trigger “defense mode,” which could ruin your chance for cordial cooperation. Plus, once you have set fire to that bridge, communication in the future could be rocky.
Approach this person in a casual manner
If you work remotely, ask the person to join a video call for a “catch-up call.” If possible, avoid pre-scheduling in a formal manner or a manner out of the ordinary — no one enjoys the anticipation of a meeting when the tone seems serious.
Once you have a chance to speak, say something like, “Hey Donna, I just want to get an update on that task we talked about. How is that going?”
From there, allow the person to provide their answer with no interruptions. Perhaps they have a legitimate reason for not accomplishing the task, or maybe they put it on the back burner.
Regardless of their reasoning, they will feel heard and not automatically respond defensively.
Be clear when communicating your expectations
During your conversation, provide some expectations moving forward. Whether there is a time constraint or not, give a date or time you need the task completed.
Setting a deadline will let the person know you expect action on their part.
Give the person an opportunity to discuss a timeline
Give the person an opportunity to discuss a timeline that works for them. Perhaps they have a more critical task to complete and your suggested date and time of completion are not realistic.
Let them know you are there if they need support
Also, let them know you are there if they need support. We’ve all had it happen when we had too much on our plate, and some task made its way to the back burner.
Letting the person know you are there for support will give them more reason to complete the job with a good attitude.
To summarize, you can say something like:
“If you can complete this task by 5 pm tomorrow, that would be great. Does this work for you? Let me know if you need any assistance.”
Psychology Teacher and Family Lifestyle Blogger | Founder, The Inspiration Edit
It’s essential to be direct when you need to remind someone to do something. But, it’s also important to do so in a way that doesn’t come across as critical or accusatory.
Here are some tips on doing so politely:
Use “I” statements
When reminders come from a place of “you need to do this,” they can sound bossy or demanding. Instead, try using “I” statements.
For example, you could say, “I would appreciate it if you could finish the report by 5 p.m. today.” This sounds more polite and respectful and is much less likely to annoy the other person.
Avoid using “you” statements
As we mentioned, using “you” statements can make your reminder sound bossy or demanding. For example, “You need to finish this report by 5 p.m. today.”
Instead, try using “I” statements or third-person statements, like “The team needs the report finished by 5 p.m. today.” This makes your request seem less “forced” and is more likely to get the person to comply.
Be polite and respectful
It goes without saying that you should be polite and respectful when reminding someone to do something.
For example, you might say something like:
“I know you’re really busy, but would it be possible for you to finish the report by 5 p.m. today? We need it for our presentation tomorrow morning.”
Avoid nagging or sounding like a broken record
If you find that you’re constantly reminding someone to do something, be careful not to turn into a nag. It’s okay to ask the person once or twice, but it might be time to take a different approach if they don’t seem to be getting the message.
For example, you could talk to the person’s supervisor or the team leader to see if they can help get the person on track.
State what needs to be done in a clear and direct way
It can be tricky to know how to politely remind someone to do something. After all, you don’t want to come across as bossy or pushy. However, you can use a few strategies to gently remind someone of something without seeming overly forceful.
One approach is to simply state what needs to be done in a clear and direct way. For example, you might say, “I just wanted to remind you that we need to submit our reports by the end of the day.”
Another option is to ask if the person has had a chance to do the task yet, and, if so, whether they might be able to provide an update on their progress.
For instance, you might say something like:
“I’m just wondering if you’ve had a chance to look at that report I sent over last week. If you have, could you let me know what your thoughts are?”
Send a weekly email reminder about an upcoming deadline
Taking a proactive and courteous approach can effectively remind someone of what needs to be done without being pushy or demanding.
If you need to remind someone of something frequently, it might be helpful to set up a system to do so.
For example, you could send a weekly email reminder about an upcoming deadline or set a recurring calendar event to remind everyone on your team about an important meeting.
Having a set system in place can help ensure that everyone is aware of the task at hand and can take action accordingly. In addition, it can help to acknowledge the recipient’s efforts if they are already making progress toward completing the task.
For instance, you could say something like:
“I see that you’re off to a great start with this project—thank you!”
Use sticky notes on your desk or set up calendar alerts on your phone
Lastly, if you tend to forget things yourself, it can be helpful to create reminders for yourself as well.
Whether you use sticky notes on your desk or set up calendar alerts on your phone, having a system in place can help ensure that nothing gets lost amid the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Sales Director, VEM Tooling
You should use phrases that show your reverence towards them
One should not merely ask someone to do something like they would ask their friends.
Especially when you are at your workplace or somewhere where people around you have their dignity, you should use phrases that show your reverence towards them.
For friendly relationship
For instance, if you are in a friendly relationship with the person you ask to do something, you can go by phrases like:
- “Don’t forget to do it.”
- “I hope you haven’t forgotten to do…”
For higher authority
But, if the person that you address is of a higher authority, then you may have to use the phrases like:
- “Could I remind you to do …?”
- “Would you mind me reminding you to do …?”
- “Sorry to be a bore, but I needed to remind you of doing ….”
Asking for a survey of higher officials
For instance, if you want your higher officials in your organization to survey something, then you may have to say:
“Hello, sir/madam. Could I remind you to survey on …. as it would help us know where we stand amongst our competition and how people perceive our company?”
Thank the person beforehand
Let’s say you want to politely remind someone to take out the garbage. You warmly and sincerely say, “Thank you so much for taking out the garbage when you are done reading that article,” or whatever else the person is busy doing.
When you thank the person beforehand, it serves as a compelling reminder. It also clarifies the expectation while expressing your gratitude at the same time.
Leave a short and sweet written reminder to the person
This can also be accomplished with the exact words left on a written note or text to the person. Some people respond better to verbal messages, and others prefer written reminders.
Then some may appreciate getting a genuinely short and sweet written reminder in addition to an oral one. Ask recipients what their preferences are or experiment to see which method works best for them.
If you leave an appreciative handwritten note, be sure to put it where the recipient can’t miss it.
A “Thank you for cleaning up your room by the end of the weekend” note placed in the right place on a Thursday, for instance, also provides teens with plenty of time and independence to decide when exactly they would like to get the job done.
Head of Marketing, WELLPCB
Be kind yet firm
I believe that reminding someone of something they have forgotten or are neglectful of is best done kindly but directly. Irritation and resentment will result from being wishy-washy in the reminder.
At home and work, I had to learn this the hard way. Be kind yet firm. Nobody enjoys being reminded of something. When I remark something like, “I see the lawn isn’t trimmed, did you forget?” folks seem to be the least upset.
“I see your room is a little disorganized; did you forget to tidy up?” After that, after the assignment is completed, I show my gratitude. If these suggestions fail, I’ll have to resort to the phrase, “The grass looks like hell! Please trim it!”
- “What time do we leave for the Friday party? I’m not sure whether you meant 6 or 7, and I’d want to arrive on time.”
- “Oh, yeah, just remind me again.”
- “Did you get anything interesting in the mail?”
- “Do you have any publications or flyers?”
- “I just got a text from the garage reminding me to have my oil changed. Do you want me to contact them, or do you want me to plan it? Is the automobile really due?”
Quietly imply so they will assist you
You may think of a method to quietly imply or twist it so that instead of you reminding them, they assist you. Personally, I would somewhat you just remind me.
Most individuals are unconcerned about being reminded if they forget something. They’ll be grateful. It’s only irritating when people assume you’re forgetful to make themselves feel valuable when they aren’t.
Seriously, if you have the ability, do it yourself. That’s what they call it, nagging. I hadn’t forgotten. I just did not want to. I want you to take care of it.
Legal Specialist, Adamson Ahdoot LLP
Open with niceties
You don’t want to come off like a scold at any point – and certainly not at the start. Whether it’s a phone call, email, or face-to-face conversation, start with a friendly greeting and, if possible, warm up with a benign conversation starter like:
- “Did you see the Phillies blew that huge lead last night?”
- “How did you like the ending of ‘Ozark?'”
After breaking the ice, gently transition into the reminder
Maybe it’s a loan that hasn’t been repaid yet. Maybe it’s a looming deadline, and you haven’t gotten any feedback on how the work is going. Or maybe it’s an RSVP about an event you’re hosting.
Whatever the case may be, ask the person, “Are you still on track for X?” You may also ask, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
You can gauge a lot from that person’s answer and body language. If there is a lack of eye contact, coupled with a vague answer, you know that you’re not on solid footing with that person. You can ascertain a lot by taking a friendly approach.
CMO, Keyzar Jewelry
Focus on having a positive and collaborative attitude
This is something that, as a CMO, I have to do regularly, especially with projects that are very expansive, such as ad campaigns. If you can address it successfully, you can get your team’s productivity back on track and keep the morale of your employees high.
Ideally, you would never have to do this with any of your team because you’ve hired the perfect group of people who never make mistakes, always complete tasks on time, and have no life issues.
We both know that’s never the case, and we are all human! Even the most productive workers have life pop up and get in the way.
I believe the key to politely reminding someone to do something is your attitude. It may sound obvious that asking someone to do something, sometimes multiple times, is more successful if done politely, but this is more difficult to do in practice.
This is especially true for me in the marketing world, where deadlines are ever-present. The success of an ad campaign or marketing strategy depends on your entire team pulling in the same direction and completing tasks on time.
I will generally incorporate this question into team meetings in the morning for myself and my team. Having the whole team together and focusing on having a positive and collaborative attitude allows me to ask this question politely in a team setting.
For example, last week, I had an intern who was late on getting me some keyword research for an upcoming ad campaign.
During our team meeting, I phrased it to this individual (we’ll call him Jeff) as: “Jeff, we need to finish that keyword project today so that I can plug you in on another project because I need your skill-set there.”
That phrase “so that” is priceless because it allows me to build the other person up by showing them how finishing will benefit them.
If Jeff knows that I need him and value his skill-set for another project, he will most likely be motivated to get that original project done.
Building value in your employees is significant, and I try to do this as much as possible, especially by politely reminding someone to do something.
Owner and CEO, Webcitz
These kinds of discussions should be kept private
This prevents negativity from spreading in the workplace and stops the employee from potentially being humiliated in front of their colleagues. During the discussion, use simple, direct, and kind language.
Use friendly or casual words when reminding them
This helps ensure that the message is conveyed without being unpleasant or confrontational. Use friendly or casual words when reminding them and offer help when necessary.
For instance, you could say:
- “Hey! Just checking in on your status on [task]. Do you have a specific timeline for when it will be completed? If you need any assistance, please feel free to contact me.”
- “Hello [employee name], is it possible to have [task] completed today or by [specified time]? I want to run it by [coworker] soon.”
Co-Founder, Total Shape
Keep your tone confused while reminding people to do a task
It is undeniable that whenever you try to remind people of something they were supposed to do but didn’t, they frown up easily.
Thus, you have to be cool and calm to remind them of their task without getting them mad. So, the task is completed without any mistakes.
Now, the best way I consider to remind someone to do something is to ask them, “I was wondering if you have called Meera for the party tonight, Mike.”
Make your expressions a little confused while saying that. If they respond with a clear yes, it’s all good.
If your question isn’t reciprocated with the expected answer, still, they don’t get mad at you. They will just say they forgot a task or something and will do it now/later.
Remember: Do not nag them.
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