Has anyone ever told you that an email you wrote seemed rude, abrupt, or pushy? If so, you’re probably a woman. And as a woman in the working world, you must take the time to choose your words carefully, even if it means that hitting ‘send’ will take an extra few days, weeks, or years. Using non-threatening language can mean the difference between being promoted, or having an awkward one-on-one with your boss about your attitude. Here are 7 strategies to achieve a non-threatening tone in your email.
1. Make your subject line calm and inviting
Sure, you may need a response immediately, and yes, this may be the 6th time you’re asking for it, but never use any alarming language in your subject line. Otherwise you might find yourself labeled ‘intense’. Instead, make your subject line casual and friendly so that your warm inviting tone will calmly draw your reader in.
Threatening: Subject: Urgent: Response needed
Non-threatening: Subject: Just following up with few quick questions whenever you get a second
Using the word “just” is a great way to seem inferior and deferential even if you’re the boss.
2. Start with a friendly salutation
In salutations, women often make the mistake of simply saying “Hi,” or addressing the recipient with their name. This is extremely off-putting. The reader will immediately assume you’re in a bad mood, which may cause them to not even read the rest of your email since you’re clearly an angry, hysterical woman who doesn’t understand proper greetings.
Start off on the right foot by welcoming the reader to your email, inquiring about their well being, wishing them well, letting them know how you are, talking about the weather, asking about the kids, etc.
Non-threatening: Hi Jeff! How are you? Happy Monday! So cold out today isn’t it? Hope you’re well! I am feeling great myself!!
3. Use exclamation points!!
20 or 30 exclamation points can go a long way to making the tone of your email excited and cheerful. Use exclamation points liberally, whether you’re giving feedback!! Acknowledging that you received something!!!!! Or confirming an agenda!!!!!! To really drive home how excited you are, sprinkle in some ALL-CAPS!!!!
Threatening: Confirmed for 9am.
Non-threatening: OMG 9am I will sOoO be there!!!!!!!!!! AMAZING!!!!!
4. Use smiley faces
Ending a sentence with a simple period is a dead give-away for angry you are. Instead, use a few smiley faces to let your reader know that you’ve been smiling the entire time you wrote this email, and definitely not gritting your teeth and banging on your keyboard so hard you broke a nail.
Threatening: I got your feedback on my tone, thanks.
Non-threatening: I REALLY appreciate your feedback on my tone :-) I will be trying extra hard next time :-) :-) :-)
5. If you have to say no, do it graciously
When women say no, they are immediately seen as selfish and not team players. So if you must refuse a request, you can’t just say “no.” Direct, efficient communication in these instances is an immediately fireable offense. Instead, make your refusal as overly gracious as you possibly can. And, when saying no, try to avoid using the word “no,” at all cost.
Non-threatening: WOW!! Thank you so much for your generous request! I can’t begin to tell you how honored I am that you would think of me for this EXCITING project!!!!!! I wish in my heart of hearts I could do this for you but alas I am so overbooked at the moment. I am absolutely broken hearted about this and may never, ever recover. Please accept my sincerest apologies for not being able to accomodate you. I will pray every night to get another chance to have an opportunity to work with you. I wish you much luck finding someone else, and much success with the project!! Thanks again. Thank you so much, again, thank you. THANK YOU!!!!!!! :-)
6. Be gracious in your sign off
Saying goodbye is inherently threatening and must be treated delicately, so take special care with how you sign your email. You never want your reader to feel like you just left them floating in the wind. Leave your reader feeling warm and fuzzy with a few kind words and perhaps a few hugs and kisses.
Non-threatening: With eternal respect and undying appreciation, thank you a thousand times, xoxxxoooo
7. Make sure your signature includes an inspirational quote
You can tell a lot about a woman by her email signature. Actually you can’t but for some reason people do anyway. Are you showing off your title? Arrogant. Is it all business? Insensitive. Is it too self-promotional? Self-centered. Does it not take into account the environment? Thoughtless. Is it not tastefully designed with pleasing colors and fonts? Lazy. But most importantly, does it include an inspirational quote that shows your true maternal nature? If not, it should.
Threatening: Sarah Cooper, Director of Digital Marketing
Non-threatening: Sarah Cooper, ~The light I see in the world is the light I see in you~
And there you have it, 7 strategies that will surely achieve the non-threatening tone you’re going for. HOPE THIS HELPS!!!!! :-)
Sarah Cooper is the author of How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings. She is not the director of digital marketing.