There is a time (perhaps) to be subservient and a time to claim your power. Someone recently told me someone chided her opening her work emails with, “I just wanted to ask you a question.” Several other women immediately chimed in saying they too often say this. They weren’t completely sure why this annoys people.
The Issue: It Sounds Subservient
The immediate issue with her statement was the word “just”. The business colleague who chided her wanted her to understand she was being unnecessarily subservient and apologetic. Business is not the place to play small. She may have a lower rank than the person receiving the email, but that doesn’t mean she is less important. In business, everyone is important or they wouldn’t be there.
The answer is simple: take the word “just” out of the sentence.
That is not the only weak point in her opening. The entire phrase, “I wanted to ask you a question” is redundant and unneeded. Of course you have a question; otherwise you would not be sending the email. Adding the extra seven words simply adds nothing and uses up the recipient’s precious time. The reader thinks, “Get to the point.”
Other Forms Of Subservient Speech
The word “just is not the only way we make ourselves sound subservient. Other words that commonly have that effect include “only” (as in “I only”) and “I hate to bother you”.
When you sound subservient, you give up a lot of your power and broadcast to others that you do not feel as important. Others may see this as humility (real or pretend), low self esteem, or even manipulation. In the end, people who value and stand up for themselves earn more respect and admiration.
What Does Subservient Behavior Have To Do With Respect?
Sounding subservient is not professional. It sounds like you are not confident and don’t respect yourself. If you don’t respect yourself, you make it harder for others to respect you.
It serves you better to stand tall, be confident and show you respect yourself.