LET’S TALK ABOUT OUR WORK-PLACE LANGUAGE

Edited with Afterlight

“I’m so sorry to bother you, I was just wondering if you had received my last email…”

Hello and welcome to one of my many daily faux pas.

When it comes to emails, I am woefully lacking in the confidence department.

Nearly every email I send gives off the distinct impression that I not only don’t have a single important thing to say, but that I actually consider myself to be one of the biggest inconveniences the world has ever seen.

As big an inconvenience as the recipient of that email will probably ever come across, actually.

For some reason, when it comes to sending emails, I am squishing words in there as fast as a GCSE student does 900 words into their 1000 word assignment.

The idea of cutting straight to the chase with an, arguably easier, “hey, did you get my last email”, is enough to send a cold bead of sweat down my spine.

Despite the considerably smaller word count, fabulous lack of preamble and the fact I am well within my rights to ask this question in whatever manner I see fit, I think this would be about as hard an email as it would be possible for me to send.

To run the risk of coming across as rude? Or arrogant? Or brusque? I’d sooner choke on my own hair, thank you very much.

Worse still, what if fire were to be met with fire? What if to my blunt question, they give me a blunt-right-back reply?

Would it not hurt, to be shot down so abruptly?

These are not risks I am willing to take.

I’m a ballerina on the keyboard; lightly dancing around the point, careful not to move too fast, to rock the boat, to fuck it up.

And in doing so, I reveal a lack of self belief that’s not getting me anywhere.

The language that I use, the ‘justs’ and the ‘sorrys’, they’re giving me away. They’re saying to the world at work that really, I’m not entirely sure that I belong there. That I’m not entirely confident in my abilities, or in my placement of them. (Of course, I’m not, but should I be sharing that???)

And despite the overwhelmingly positive rhetoric that surrounds the working woman, sorry, I mean girl boss, these days, I think this is a problem that is still plaguing a lot of us.

Confidence in this area, is something that for some reason a lot of us are finding incredibly difficult to obtain, even on a subconscious level.

I’ve been firing these emails off for years.

I’ll sit, feeling like the king of the castle at my laptop, sipping on whatever frothy coffee I’ve overpaid for as I play grownups in my local cafe, and yet, the language I’m using as my manicured nails tap tap tap away, is entirely indicative of a woman with all the self belief of a potato.

I first noticed my semantic short comings a few years ago.

I realised I was saying sorry about fourteen thousand times a day, and at least thirteen thousand of those apologies were totally unnecessary.

At the time I made a bloody big effort to cut them out. As an anxiety sufferer I could recognise that this language wasn’t doing me any good, i was struggling to own any of my decisions or ultimately feel confident in anything that I was doing.

And becoming aware of that helped a lot. Although “sorry” is still a staple in Em’s-take-on-the-English-language, it’s in a much more controlled manner these days.

Or so I thought. There was, it would seem, still an area in which the ‘sorrys’ had free-reign to do whatever they wanted. And that was in my emails.

Last year I gave Alex an important email I had written, I think I was pitching something to someone, and I asked him to proof read it for me.

I heard him tip-tapping away at my keys with all the confidence of a man with, well, confidence, and before I knew what was happening I heard the familiar whooshing sound that signals an email disappearing into the ether.

WHAT DID YOU DO? I screamed, rushing forwards to see what he’d sent.

My manners! They were gone.

My carefully constructed first line; my polite apology for the intrusion, my small talk, my preamble. My-i-hope-i-don’t-sound-too-keen trademark touch…. gone.

Well, as you can imagine, I was quite ready to kill him.

It was only when a reply came back (five minutes later) and the world hadn’t ended, that I began to consider the effects that my pussy-footing was having on my outbox.

This ignited a fire of sorts inside of me and I’ve seen become careful with whom I hand my apologies out to.

Of course the table leg still gets one when I walk into them, and Alex when I can’t decide what I want for supper, and the dog when I accidentally find myself staring at her whilst she’s having a poo.

But as for the unnecessary ones I was shoving into emails under the pretext of being polite but were actually just there as a means of putting me down?

I’m pretty stingy with those these days.

It was weird though. Just as soon as I started weaning the apologies out, I noticed another word popping up in it’s place.

I had started using “just” as a prefix for everything.

Although marginally better, (I no longer apologise to strangers for being alive), it’s still a long way from okay.

Not least of all because a quick snoop through my inbox has confirmed my suspicions: the men I talk to don’t ‘just’ do anything.

“Just wondering if you’re around later”, “just need to squeeze past you”, “just touching base”, “just popping into to say”, “just wanted to say hi”…

Just pathetic really isn’t it?

And yet we’re all at it. To varying degrees, “just” is a bomb being dropped by all of us.

I say it’s a woman thing, and I’m not entirely sure that I’m right with claiming it exclusively. But as females, we are empathetic, we are apologetic and we are culturally conditioned to put the needs of others before ourselves.

And I think that’s what we’re seeing here. A manifestation of all of those things.

That and a crippling lack of self confidence of course.

And so for the last month I have made a real effort to channel my inner-bloke when it comes to sending emails.

Not only have I vowed to only apologise when absolutely necessary, but I edit all my electronic letters before they go, studiously removing any J words that I find.

(I don’t email about jelly, jacuzzis or jumpers nearly enough, by the way).

And without meaning to sound dramatic, I think I’ve got more work out of it.

I’m not sure if that’s because the recipients of my emails are more impressed by my confidence and therefore more inclined to work with me or if it’s because the change in my language has in turn caused me to be more confident, but I’m not going to fight it.

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