“I think the deadline is August 22.”
At first glance, this seems like a helpful and non-controversial sentence to include in an email to a boss. And yet, this is basically the response I received from my male boss after I sent it: “You think the deadline is August 22 or the deadline is August 22? It either is or it isn’t. Find out.”
I was in my twenties trying my best to succeed at my job. The deadline actually was August 22. I shouldn’t have qualified my answer with “I think.” Point taken.
Evidently, I’m not the only person who unwittingly hedges when writing emails. A company has come up with a way to combat this self-defeating communication style—the Just Not Sorry Gmail plug-in. The plug-in warns you by helpfully underlining “words or phrases that undermine your message.”