I can't tell you how many times I tap that backspace button in an email. My inner monologue generally sounds something like this:
"Ok, I'm asking for approval on this. I don't want to sound so direct that it comes across as rude - maybe I'll put "I just need some clarification on..." and it will come across friendlier."
"Right, I need to chase them up on this, but I know they're busy - I don't want to be too demanding, but I need to show urgency. Perhaps I'll tack a smiley face on the end to show I'm not mad..."
And so on, so forth - you get the point, and maybe you can relate?
I recently read 'Digital Body Language' by Erica Dhawan, a globally recognised leadership expert specialising in communication. Her ideas surrounding gender digital language piqued my interest. The ideas were heavily focused on stereotypes, and of course, do not apply to all. Nevertheless, there is truth in her words.
Female digital language
Throughout history, the narrative and expectation of friendly, warm, and comforting women have existed in our society, which doesn't exclude the workplace. Because of this, women are more likely to fixate on their emails and how they may be perceived. As a result, we tend to use passive language and phrase things as questions to avoid sounding direct.
On the flip-side, women tend to scrutinise emails they receive, especially from their male colleagues, and this is coursed by the, at times, the extreme difference in digital communication.
Male digital language
Men are the opposite. They don't tend to fret over their little idiosyncrasies, which make up their email's nuances. Males are much more concise in their writing and don't stop to think of how they may be perceived on the other end. Conciseness isn't seen as rude or aggressive, and one-word answers are efficient.
It's important to note that many other factors play into the way we write and perceive emails, ranging from generational influence, level of authority within the business, and culture, to name a few.
Start with one small change
I've eliminated the word "just." Well, where it is not helpful anyway. That four-letter word provided me safety, but it's unnecessary. As long as I remain respectful and clear in my communication, I can rely on that being enough to convey the tone of my message.
I challenge you to identify your email safety cues, like my "just," and next time you have the urge to slide it in an email, resist that urge and hit send. It may be daunting, but you can do it!
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