On average, we deal with over 100 email messages in our inbox every day. More and more, we rely on our emails to document and track communication between us and the people we work with and for. Knowing this, sometimes, we go too far or not far enough in choosing our words.
Here are the 5 phrases you’re using that’s hurting your reputation:
- “As You Know” … If I know, it comes across snide and condescending. If I don’t know, it comes across judgmental and rude.
- “Thanks, but” … This phrase is usually followed by something that negates any gratitude. If you really were thankful, it doesn’t look like it.
- “… and so on and so forth” … No one knows what this really means. It always comes across presumptive and dismissive. Arguably inarticulate and lazy.
- “If you would be so kind as to” … This paints me into a no-win corner where either I have to do what, when and how you ask or be a jerkface. It’s polite bullying.
- “If I don’t hear back from you, I will assume” … This is demanding and slightly menacing.
Everyone sets out to be seen as a supportive, helpful professional at work. At times, we fall short of this at times in moments of frustration, stress or weakness. No one is perfect; it is understandable.
This should be the exception in your communication, though, not the rule. If you’re regularly using these kinds of phrases, it’s time to make a change. Skip the passive-aggressive lead-ins and lead-ons — and just get to the point of what you want to say candidly, directly and tactfully.
- Instead of saying “As you know”, try “I am writing about the issue with X” instead. This approach is direct and unassuming. If you’re really not sure if the person knows about it, give a brief synopsis of the issue before moving into your questions or requests.
- Instead of “Thanks, but”, try “Thank you!” followed by a brand new sentence or paragraph about whatever additional thing is needed. This will not overshadow or erase your gratitude … Unless you’re really not thankful. If you’re not, don’t say “thanks” at all. No one like gratuitous gratitude.
- Instead of “and so on and so forth”, try a brief explanation of what the so on and so forth is. Never assume the reader has all the same knowledge that you have. Use your message share information.
- Instead of “if you would be so kind”, just state what you need. And why.
- Instead of “if I don’t hear from you, I will assume”, just state the deadline for a response. And why. If the deadline is a short one, you may even want to pick up that old 19th century device called a telephone to let the person know that you sent an urgent email.
Because we send email to communicate, discuss, resolve and document the things that occur in our workplaces. If the communication isn’t clear, it will lead to unnecessary complications and confusion — and, if it comes down to it, will not withstand legal scrutiny.
Clear. Concise. Candid. Always in all ways.
Are there more passive-aggressive email phrases you’d like to see on this list? Tell me about it!
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