Persistence often pays off in personal and professional affairs, but there is sometimes a fine line between being persistent and being annoying. Reig yourself in before your admirable trait of perseverance morphs into a source of frustration and irritation for those around you. Recognizing this line and refusing to cross it is the secret to success, whether in closing a major business deal or getting the date of your dreams.
Invest significant time and thought into an action plan. Persistence means you're committed to a certain outcome and are ready to try a variety of creative approaches in order to achieve it. Simply repeating the same actions over and over will soon become annoying and is not likely yield a positive outcome. Persistence requires a great degree of premeditated thought and advance planning. A good action plan will include a range of alternatives for when you hit a roadblock.
Initiate contact only when you have a specific reason for doing so. Don't say, "I just wanted to follow up with you." Most people will react with annoyance to that kind of a follow-up because that comment suggests you don't have their best interests in mind, notes career expert Pete Liebman.
Discover as much information as possible about the person you're dealing with. If there's any common ground between the two of you, use that to share information. This could be something as simple as recommending a new restaurant, a book or article to read or a little-known store to purchase supplies for an unusual, shared hobby. This demonstrates you've taken the time to get know the person, you've remembered his likes and dislikes and you're willing to share your knowledge with no strings attached.
Tempt the other person with something you know she values. This could be tickets to a sporting event or an invitation to an exclusive club. The idea is to present something that you know the other person will appreciate and want to use. It shows your thoughtfulness. That will make her happy to have received your call.
Arrange the next phone call or follow-up meeting at the conclusion of your last one. For example, if you're making a business or sales call, conclude the meeting by asking how much time is needed before he'll reach a decision. Ask when would be the best time for you to call again. It's also appropriate to do this in personal relationships. Check with the other person to find out how long you should wait before calling back.
Provide an update if the other person is expecting you to do so. If the other person suggested some action you should take, or an event you should attend and you did so, this is a good opportunity to reconnect and share new information.
Offer help in a specific way. Demonstrate that you are interested in a reciprocal relationship and show your willingness to do something concrete. Perhaps the other person is having car trouble; offering to drop her off or pick her up shows your commitment to the relationship. If you aren't sure what assistance she might need, ask her directly.
Be sure to interject some humor. Self-depreciating humor can be particularly effective, but be careful you don't overdue it. It will quickly become annoying if every line you utter is an attempted joke. Demonstrating a good sense of humor and clever wit usually impresses business clients and romantic interests. Try to gauge the other person's reaction to your humor. For example, if he doesn't seem amused by your puns, stop making them.
Show appreciation for the other person. Remember to send a tend a thank you note if you were helped in some way. People are much more likely to find you annoying when they feel that you do not appreciate them.
Relax. Make sure you leave an appropriate amount of time between visits or phone calls. Whether it's a business contact or a romantic interest, over-eagerness is usually a turn-off. Be prepared with a back-up plan in case you get a negative response. Knowing you have a next step ready will help keep you from feeling and appearing desperate.
Try the direct approach. If every time you call, you feel you're being brushed off, ask explicitly, "I hope I'm not bothering you. Would you prefer that I stop calling"? This approach might result in the other person reassuring you that your calls are welcome, but be prepared to stop calling if you're told to stop.
Demonstrate that you respect the other person's time. Plan what you want to say in advance so you can make your points succinctly. Keep your conversation short. If you ask any questions, be sure they are relevant.If you've said you'll take only five minutes, don't go over that limit.
Be polite. If you're always considerate and respectful of what the other person tells you, you're less likely to become an annoyance.
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- Sales Readiness Group: Professionally Persistent vs. Annoying: Not Such a Fine Line After All
- Idealize Enterprises: Eleven Ways to Be Persistent Without Being Annoying
- Barry Farber: How to Be Persistent Without Being Annoying
- Evan Carmichael: The Power of Persistence
- Standard Digital News: Consistency and Persistence -- The Key to Success at the Workplace
- Be ready to accept rejection at some point. It's possible that despite your best efforts, the other party just isn't interested, and you need to move on.
Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.