How to Get Someone’s Attention (Without Being Annoying)

The leaves are changing, the coffee is spiced, and your emails remain unanswered. “Let’s circle back after the holidays” season is officially upon us.


Whether you’re in sales, heading up an internal project, or just trying to get some feedback from your boss, getting attention this time of year can be challenging. After a few “just touching base on this!” attempts, it might feel like you’re screaming into the abyss. A balance between politely following up and being downright annoying can be difficult to strike. Here are four tips to help:

Change your medium. If your emails aren’t getting answered, try a phone call. If your Teams chat lands in cyberspace, try a text. When someone is overwhelmed on a particular platform (most commonly, email) simply trying an alternative route can get their attention. Be mindful of the norms of your organization here, and please don’t message someone on their personal Facebook to ask if they got your voicemail (I’m looking at you- unskilled cold callers).

Set the context. When someone is tired, busy, or overworked, they likely don’t realize their lack of response is a hold-up. Clearly describing the context of their involvement can increase the urgency. For example, if you’re waiting on your boss to approve something- politely framing the request with ‘Your sign-off will enable me to follow up with the customer’ gives them a reason to respond. When someone sees their part in a larger landscape, they’re less likely to be the hold-up.

Remind them of their intentions. If your boss, colleague, or even a customer told you why they wanted to do something (and their actions indicate otherwise) you can increase the urgency by kindly reminding them of their best intentions. This is not- “Well you saaaiiiidddd….!” It’s an authentic attempt to resurface their most aspirational thinking.

Let’s say you signed up with a personal trainer. Life got busy, and you’ve canceled your last few sessions. Which text are you more likely to act on:

  • I haven’t heard from you in a few weeks! Just following up – do you still want to continue personal training or not?
  • You shared with me that maintaining your physical fitness was crucial for your energy. I know you want to show up as your best self for your work and family! When can we reschedule?

Yes, the second text might make you feel a little guilty. But not guilty that you didn’t respond to your trainer- guilty that you’re not holding onto what you wanted.

End the follow-up saga. I first learned this technique in a sales capacity. If a prospect isn’t getting back to you, send a simple, “Hi there, I’ve made a few attempts to connect with you and haven’t heard back. This will be my last follow-up. Should anything change- my inbox is open!”

The response rate is insanely high. The same tactic can work internally, too, like when you’re asking for feedback or participation on a project. Oftentimes, busy people don’t realize how many follow-ups they missed.  When you’re clear that you won’t be following up again, this gives the other person the opportunity to engage (or not) definitively. No more circling back.

After a turbulent year, it can be tempting to call it a wrap…two months early. But here’s the thing – come January, everything we punt into 2023 will be staring back at us. And rarely does it feel more exciting.

Being able to capture attention and sustain momentum during times of meh is a hallmark of high performers. Create urgency, highlight your impact, and don’t be afraid to remind people of their best intentions.