Excuse me! Hi, hello – sorry for bothering you. Just a quick note to say that I hope this doesn’t take up too much of your time but if it isn’t too much bother it would be great if you could stop apologising.
When it comes to emails – the cold, the warm and the darn right icy I’ve found myself making the same missteps over and over again. I’ve become some sort of performative coddler. It’s all soft edges and fluff and “if you could” and overcompensating tonally so an anonymous voice on the other end of the screen doesn’t think I’m an asshole. And here’s the thing; basic email etiquette is fine and encouraged (please don’t send a regards unless I’ve truly done you dirty, it WILL keep me up at night) but it shouldn’t come at the expense of a backbone.
I want to be liked and a great deal of my external validation comes from “professional accomplishments.” This meant that previously if I was looking to start a fresh relationship to make a thing happen I’d be getting straight in there with the apology before any kind of pitch “Sorry” “Hope it’s okay” “If it’s not too much trouble” “If you can” “Don’t worry.” I’d be spending all this energy to prevent inciting ire from a blank screen, or worse an eye roll. Before anything else I’d be making myself smaller because what? I didn’t want to be rejected? Because I wanted to show due reverence? Because I needed constant approval from people I didn’t know to feel I had any professional or personal worth? All of the above?
There’s the meme going around all about how we write in emails. It highlights constant apologising and pussy footing round the point. Its exclamation points to show how bubbly and enthusiastic we are but not too many lest you think we’ve fully lost the plot. It’s this weird lack of confidence to ask for things or be direct because if we put ourselves out there is no certain terms and the answer is no then clearly it’s a flaw in our character.
Suggesting that we apologise less or change our language doesn’t mean giving yourself carte blanche to be an asshole. Moving away from sorry doesn’t mean you embrace a scorch the earth policy in your emails or personal interactions. And even then, moving away from learned behaviours and we communicate and operate through life is one of those larger personal development projects that takes time. The first step is acknowledging it and being aware of how you use language. I don’t think I was fully aware of how much I did it until I saw @danidonovan’s email like a boss image do the rounds. I wasn’t quite shouting house on the apologetic email front but I was definitely guilty of more than a few.
I’m still scared of professional rejection (look, I’m scared of all kinds of rejection) but at the time for any type of growth and development you have to open to that and that means putting yourself out there. At a little bit of assertiveness and confidence in the way we engage online is a great place to start. It’s less about saying sorry for bothering you and more thank you for your time. It’s time to stop apologising and start growing.