As women, we are taught to speak in such a way that undermines us. We inadvertently make ourselves smaller by the ways we communicate. A request can come off as a demand if we don’t add a cute little “please” anointed with a perfect exclamation point. It’s self-sabotage, really. The words we use make us appear unqualified, unconfident, and inept. Below are some examples of things we add to our daily correspondences that weaken our overall message:
1. Adding “just”
Adding “just” to your request or question makes it seem like you’re apologizing for asking something, and then subsequently defending yourself for doing so. Stop “just asking for clarification,” or “just wondering if…” Start cutting “just” out of your language. Literally, just delete it from your emails after you type it.
2. Overusing the exclamation point
We don’t need to be so excited all the time! Sometimes we have to add a sentence with a period in-between two sentences ending with exclamation points, just so we don’t look over-caffeinated. But that’s okay! (See what I did there?)
It softens the blow of the overall message we’re trying to send. Why does a small punctuation mark determine our politeness when men send abrasive emails all the time? Don’t diminish yourself just to communicate.
3. Adding “actually”
Seriously, do we have to try to legitimize ourselves by saying we “actually” have an opinion on something? It entirely undermines everything that follows, as if by being female you are predisposed to not have thoughts or opinions. Delete “actually” from your emails, too.
4. Apologizing all the time for everything
This is really the worst one. I constantly find myself saying sorry for asking professors questions or for reaching out to people. Since when was I not allowed to do that? The more I realize how much I apologize for inconsequential things the more I feel I’m disallowed from taking up space or time.
I realize a lot of this seems silly. Maybe it’s seemingly unimportant because at the end of the day, people respond to our emails and answer all of our questions. However, the way we express ourselves determines how we are perceived. On the one hand, we can be mousy and small and use “just” and “actually.” Or we are perceived to be aggressive and bossy if we stray from our gender-imposed use of language.
Nevertheless, there are ways to portray what we want to without diminishing ourselves. While avoiding the use of excessive exclamation marks and smiley faces, we should be more creative with our greetings and salutations. Keep it funny and quick, so as to not distract from your message but still add the touch of lightheartedness you’re looking for. Still, keep it classy and professional, but find something authentic to you. We are socialized to believe that we’re not meant to do or ask for certain things and that we always have to be nice, and in turn inadvertently use language that portrays that social belief. Remember, there’s always a way to be nice without flushing your self-worth down the toilet. Spend some time over the next few weeks identifying how you may do these things!