At heart, I’m a conversationalist. Whenever I can engage with others face-to-face, thoughts flow freely from my brain and out of my mouth as though the universe instilled the gift-of-gab into my very existence.
Despite my affinity for communicating with others, I still find myself faced with a constant struggle: drafting an email is the most nerve-wracking experience in my day-to-day life in tech.
The feeling I feel is one I know too well. It’s uncomfortable. From the moment I click “New Email”, an overabundance of anxiety-driven thoughts begins to overcrowd my brain:
“Is a smiley face professional? Do I sound too excited if I end my sentence with an exclamation mark? Do I come off as too aggressive if I type ASAP instead of ‘as soon as possible’? How do I deny their request without sounding like a total emotionless b*tch?”
You see, it’s different when you’ve had the opportunity to meet the individual face to face prior to reaching out via email. You get the chance to break the ice and build up an innocent rapport. But what happens if you’ve never crossed paths with that person a day in your life?
That’s my reality. I work remotely now so it’s seldom that I get the opportunity to meet a colleague face to face before engaging with them through email. So much apprehension is built up around communicating digitally because words can be taken out of context. Being a technical girl in a digital world has its perks; however, I still feel myself overcome with dread when I must ask a total and complete stranger to do something – or worse, to reject a request that the individual made.
Five revision rounds before pressing “Send“? Yes!
A simple four sentence email might undergo five revision rounds before I press “Send”. I’ll read sentences in various tones of voice with different levels of inflections. I even find myself using a thesaurus to find more positive ways to express the feelings that I want to convey.
I wouldn’t be too surprised if you’re a self-identifying woman who wholeheartedly agrees with the experience I’ve described above.
But do our male counterparts experience the same guilt and apprehension? Do they second-guess themselves when communicating digitally with others? Is it their male-ego that gives them the confidence to whip up an email within a matter of seconds without the sheer thought of reading before pressing “Send”?
And as women, at what point do we break away from the anxieties of our email-phobia and just type whatever feels right? With so much talk and discussion around ‘being our authentic-self’ and ‘finding our voice’, at what point does the switch in our brain empower us to freely communicate digitally without fear?
I long for the day where I feel comfortable enough to type an email once without fear of retaliation. I can’t wait for the day where I can respond with a simple ‘Ok’ and not feel the urge to add ‘ : ) ’ at the end. I’d even settle for the day where I can eliminate passive-aggressions and just blatantly state whatever message I wish to get across to the recipient.
Overcoming the what-if scenarios
And it’s possible that this could all be resolved through a matter of self-reflection. What has caused so many of us to fear communicating in the workspace digitally with our co-workers? I may not have all the answers; however, I strive to overcome this feeling with each message that I type. I tend to remind myself that I do, in fact, have a voice and that it’s meant to be heard. Most of the what-if scenarios that I curate in my head just live in my head – seldom do they come to fruition.
With that said, I challenge you to find your voice and feel comfortable expressing your thoughts through email. We can strive for perfection but at the end of the day, that’ll just drive us crazy. Instead, we should strive to be the best version of ourselves possible.
…and if all else fails, just press “Send”!
April Speight is a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft in the L.A. area. She began her career in luxury fashion as a menswear stylist and visual merchandiser before transitioning to IT shortly after graduating from university. April is a python developer and creates Youtube tutorials on coding basics and presents her code on Github!. Additionally, she also has a blog: Vogue and Code.