Email 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?