Sorry to bother you, but I apologize too much over email


After clearing out my emails and private messages, I realized I’m never sorry — but every other thread or message I send starts with an apology. “Sorry to bug you!” “I was just wondering…” “…Totally fine if not.” Why do I apologize for existing in every email I send?

I saw a tweet over the weekend, and it reminded me of a college class I once took — “how to write like a man,” a.k.a. with unapologetic confidence. As feminist advocate Lois Wyse once said: “Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.”

Besides for literal “sorry”‘s, there was one word I used just as much — “just.” I was always “just” wondering, “just” thinking, or “just” adding my opinion. I used “lady language” to undermine myself and I seemed to rely on emoji to “just” portray my real opinions and emotions.

“Just Not Sorry”

It’s difficult to break the habit of constantly apologizing — whether that’s for when someone else walks into you or you’re trying to chase someone via email.

I found a Gmail plug-in offering a solution. Just Not Sorry warns you when you use words such as “just,” “I think,”“I’m sorry,” “I’m not expert,” and “actually” — basically, words that serve no purpose other than to undermine your authority or discredit your skills and knowledge.

The plug-in will underline said phrases or words in red. When you hover over the underlined phrases, the tool offers pop-up pearls of wisdom as to why you should amplify, and not undermine, your message.

I will never apologize to a co-worker again

Just Not Sorry is part of a broader effort to encourage women to make their voices heard in the workplace. The pop-up advice quotes experts experts including Sylvia Ann Hewlett, a labor economist specializing in gender, and Tara Sophia Mohr, author of Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead.

Gender inequality has had its influence on both women’s and men’s speech for centuries. A Gmail plug-in won’t completely dismantle linguistic gender stereotypes, but pointing out simple words that unintentionally undermine certain voices is a step in the right direction.

Sorry about this column, I’m no expert at writing confidently.

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