Smiley Faces in Emails to Women Will Save You a Lot of Grief

LOL 17

smiley faceEmail has become easily one of our most common forms of communication, but it's also one that can be consistently fraught with tension, ambiguity, and miscommunication. Most of us have sat stewing over an email from a significant other, thinking, "What did he mean by that?" or one from the boss, wondering, "Is she angry with me or happy with me?"

In an essay about "gaslighting," which is the apparent habit men have of accusing women of being "overly sensitive," "paranoid," or "crazy," when they're not, the writer mentions how women negate their feelings in email exchanges. It really struck a familiar chord with me, though not for the reasons the essay goes into.

The author, Yashir Ali, wrote:

No wonder some women are unconsciously passive aggressive when expressing anger, sadness, or frustration. For years, they have been subjected to so much gaslighting that they can no longer express themselves in a way that feels authentic to them. They say, "I'm sorry," before giving their opinion. In an email or text message, they place a smiley face next to a serious question or concern, thereby reducing the impact of having to express their true feelings. You know how it looks: "You're late :)"
I admit that in the past several years, I have begun doing the apology-preceding-a-request thing and the smiley-face-emoticon thing. Instead of saying, "Hey, can you get that to me tomorrow?" it's now, "Hey, if you're not too busy and wouldn't mind and it's not going to mess up your day or anything, would you mind  terribly getting that to me tomorrow? Pretty please? Thanks!!!!"
And, ugh, the smiley faces. I pretty much use them after every sentence now. It's become a habit. "Yes, I'm here :)"
I'll tell you the truth though. I don't do this because of men and their "gaslighting." I do this because of women and their freak-out-ing. I used to be a plain old sentence gal. "Hey, could you get that for me?" "By the way, I'll be out tomorrow." "Sorry, I can't go with you." I did this for two reasons: One, that's the way I speak, and it just seemed natural. Two, too much typing can give me pains in my hands.
But, oh, ladies. Ladies do not like plain emails. Ladies hear voices in their heads when they get plain emails and those voices belong to their mothers, their children, their husbands, or the boss they hated. They are the voices of naggers, criticizers, put-downers, and whiners from elsewhere. And unless you do the whole apology-request thing or the smiley-face thing, ladies are likely to jump to the conclusion that you a) hate them just like their father did, b) are giving them attitude just like their kids do, or c) both. I've never once had an issue like this with a male coworker or supervisor.
Are women overly sensitive from so many years of men telling them they are overly sensitive? Who knows? I just know it takes me a lot longer to write a simple email than I would like. Smiley face! :)
Do you add smiley faces and apologies to your emails?

Image via jetheriot/ Flickr

communication, email


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nonmember avatar Gretta

I work with mostly men. Sometimes I find myself doing these things because I have seen women who are more direct (even when they are totally awesome at their job) get labeled a "b1tch"... and then get disregarded and undermined.

mamivon2 mamivon2

smiley faces yes.

tania... taniamorse85

No.  I don't even use them in personal emails to friends or family.  I think emoticons lessen the impact of what you want to say.  If I want to smile at someone, I'll do it in person.

Eques... EquestrianMom

Eh, for most people I don't care. From my ex husband, the lack of any kind of punctiation (hey, a comma or exclamation point is free!) lets me know he is pissed at me. Smiley faces tell me he is wanting something (oh, theres a family function I'm not welcome to, but the kid must attend, spend two days, and it's on my week?) and so yeah, once in a while, a freindly smiley face for no reason would be nice!

 or not, nice the ex has a tell :P

Tracys2 Tracys2

I am polite, ie "please could you get this for me this week if you have a sec" with those people, and I use smilies, because I can have a sardonic sense of humour and some people don't know it.

Similarly, but from the other side- if I get an email like, "Fine. Not tomorrow. Try blue", it makes me wonder. Fine if that's who they are. If it's from someone who, in person, tends to chatter- it does give an "I'm annoyed" vibe. I think that's part of it- it's easier when your voice stays "true" between RL and email. We get that a lot at church-- people who are so chatty and friendly when you see them in a group, then you get a terse email and are like "What??! So he's friendly to them and short with me- what did I do to him?" People who don't use the same voice range all the time.

Once we know each other well, anything goes.

Water... Water_geM

i dont do smileys.

nonmember avatar Denise Salinas

I am an unapologetic smiley face and lol junkie--but it's for a good reason. I live on the witty side of life and happen to have a very deadpan delivery. In person this is a good thing as people can see eyes crinkling or a half smile or they can use the conversation itself to determine how to percieve a comment I make. In texts, emails and Facebook comments etc. that is not the case so adding that smile is like adding a visual setting to the dialougue. The lol habit started when my SO and I were first texting back and forth getting to know each other and he kept thinking I was being serious when I was cracking a joke. We got past that issue quick but figured out that using or not using lol frees us from having to read into the text to guage moods. They are a shorthand version of things like "he said with sheepish grin" or "she said cheerfully" etc that would follow dialouge in a book. I heart them lol:)

mumma... mummajenni

I'll admit this, sometimes my :) or ;) in an email is my way of saying FU.

Most of the time, I do think it's both important and easy to communicate in a friendly way in email, without having to use the smiley face. I think some people don't care about being nice to others. Often the woman in your office who writes terse emails is not being direct, or professional, and isn't accomplished... She's a bitch, and doesn't give a shit who she is rude to, or what everyone thinks of her. She's her own worst enemy. Crying in her car at the end of the day about how no one listens to/respects/likes her. If you treat others like dirt, that's the result.

nonmember avatar HS

I use smiley's to indicate sarcasm or a joke. That way the person reading doesn't wonder what my tone is. I use sarcasm and joke a lot in RL too though and it's always followed with a laugh. Context clue basically.
I'm also passive-aggressive a lot of times just through learned-behavior. It works! You're being polite but issuing an order and it throws people off. When all else fails I cry lol. But lawwwd don't make me ask you twice!
And this is with anybody, male or female. It's just the type of person I am ;)


To quote my friend Chuck "Bitches love smiley faces!"

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