For my internship over the summer, I had to send a lot of emails. Like, a ridiculous amount of emails. I would often get back from an hour-long lunch break with 20+ emails to respond to. And as a lowly intern, most (if not all) of my emails were being sent to people higher on the totem pole than I was, which was definitely a scary experience that I was lacking confidence in at first.
As the summer went on, I found myself picking up on the ways in which I was undermining myself in my own emails. I began to compile a mental list of ways to make myself sound more confident, even if I was actually terrified to send an email to a director or someone else in a position of power in the company. I even found that throughout the summer, as I began catching myself on these mistakes, I would get responses more quickly, and more often with the answers I was looking for.
Here are 7 ways I found that make you sound more confident in your emails:
- Stop using the word "just"
Using the word “just” undermines what you’re trying to say, and it often makes you sound less confident. An example is, “I was just checking to see if you made any progress on this project.” It’s a word that automatically minimizes what it is that you have to say, making anything you send to someone sound less important.
- If you don't need to, don't ask, just tell
For my internship, I had to send out a few surveys for people to respond to; and when I first sent them towards the beginning of the summer, I would say, “Could you please fill out this survey?” What I found was that the response rate was really low on these surveys; no one was taking the time to respond to them. I realized that I shouldn’t have been asking them to fill out the survey, I should be just telling them, “Please fill out this survey.” This makes what you have to say much more important and makes it more likely that recipients of the email will respond accordingly.
- Change your tone to match who you're emailing
Not all emails have to be super professional, and some of them should definitely be more professional than others! When emailing someone much higher up than you, keep a professional tone and always sign off using your full name and position (especially as an intern). But when emailing other interns or your mentor, you can often take on a more casual tone.
- Don't seek validation with the phrase "is that okay?"
When emailing someone an idea or plan you have, asking the question “Is that okay?” makes it sound like you’re unsure about what it is you’re proposing—making you sound the opposite of confident. While it's sometimes important to check and ask “How does that sound?” or something along those lines, if you can do without asking, just send the email without it. If there are any glaring errors, someone will bring it up without you asking!
- Don't be afraid to reply to your own email!
So many times I would send an email, wait a few days, and just never get a response (even if it was a fairly important or time-sensitive email that I needed an answer to). I would just wait and wait and wait forever, hoping that they would get to it soon; until one day one of the people on the team I was interning for mentioned that she would often reply to her own email with something like, “Have you gotten the chance to look at this yet?” By doing so, it brought the email back to the top of their inbox without being too aggressive or demanding.
- Use the word "think" sparingly
This is similar to the advice of not using the phrase, “Is that okay?” in that it undermines what you’re trying to say and could make it sound like you’re not sure what it is you’re talking about. Instead of saying, “I think we should do this,” try saying, “Let’s do this.” It’s much more confident-sounding, and gets your point across better.
- Stop apologizing for things that aren't in your control!
This is a piece of advice that is good, not just for emails, but also for real life! Too often I would find myself responding to an email saying something along the lines of, “I’m so sorry, but I have a meeting at this time, so I will be unable to get this done by that time.” But why was I apologizing? It wasn’t my fault that I had a meeting at that time! Instead of apologizing for things that were out of my control, I tried to migrate more towards simply stating why I couldn’t do something, and giving an alternative, such as “I am unable to make it to a meeting at that time, but does this time work?”
As young women in the professional world, especially interns, it's easy to catch ourselves in a lot of these mistakes because we're worried about sounding too rude or too out-of-place. But sometimes the secret to success is simply confidence and pretending like you know what you’re talking about, which is where these tips come in! Fake it ‘til you make it!