Never the Right Word

Never the Right Word

Scripts & Templates for Life’s Uncomfortable Conversations.

Contact & find out more.

Legal Information

NTRW is supported by adverts and affiliate marketing links. This means if you click a link or buy a product, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Partnerships help fund this site. For more info, please see our Earnings Disclosure.
This site does not constitute as legal, mental, or medical health advice, please consult a competent licensed professional.

Do you feel unreasonably anxious when replying to emails? You aren’t alone.

Anxiety over our inboxes is a real issue, and the sending of emails is a widespread trigger for people who suffer from stress-related to social or productivity pressures.

With email, there’s no way to predict how the recipient will respond, and unlike in face-to-face conversations, it may be several days before you receive an answer.
It’s no wonder that email communication, especially for marketing or other business purposes, causes some people stress. 
While there is not yet any substantial scientific evidence as to the “normalcy” of inbox anxiety, it does appear to be a widespread phenomenon that causes many people to struggle.

In her book, Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real, author Jocelyn K. Glei works to get to the root of this issue.

The book’s early chapters examine the science surrounding society’s email addiction, as well as explaining what gives our inboxes the control to make us so nervous.

Among the facts that Ms. Glei’s book shares, the following struck us the most:

Why Do We Get Email Anxiety?

 

We’re Hooked on Doing

 

In the 1930s, psychologist B.F. Skinner’s experiments on conditioning found that rats get more motivation from random rewards (push a lever, get a big treat, a small gift, or nothing at random) than from fixed ones (push a lever, get a treat every time).

In the same way, every time we visit our inboxes, we may get an exciting email (the reward) or something the complete opposite—but we can never know which, and the possibility keeps us hooked.

Says Glei, “Most of the time when you ‘press the lever’ to check your email messages, you get something…bothersome—a communication from a frustrated client or a boss with an urgent request.

But every once in a while, you press the lever, and you get something exciting…It’s those random rewards…that we find so addictive.”

 


 

Emails Never Get ‘Done’

 

Whenever we finish a task, our brain gives us a shot of dopamine—one of the “feel-good chemicals” responsible for human happiness. Naturally, this makes us want to finish our tasks.

But, explains Glei, because handling email can never really be “finished,” it leaves us frustrated, chasing a goalpost that doesn’t exist.

“While you attend to it,” she says, “you have the false sensation of advancing toward a goal, but…the target shifts further into the distance as more messages roll in.”

 


 

We Seek Security from Social Cues

 

It’s well known that a lot of human communication is done not with words, but through our facial expressions, body language, and tone. However, online discussion doesn’t come with these cues, and it can make interactions more difficult.

Psychologists have found that our brains interpret written messages as more negative than they really are. “Every message you send gets automatically downgraded a few positivity notches by the time someone else receives it,” says Glei.

“If the sender felt positive about an email, then the receiver usually just felt neutral. And if the sender felt neutral about the message, then the receiver typically felt negative about it.”

The result? You’re unlikely to feel great about the emails you get, ever.

 


 

We Aim to Please 

 

There have been many studies done that show humans tend to follow the “rule of reciprocity.” Ms. Glei explains that “At its most basic level, this means that we want to respond to a positive action with another positive action.”

For example, if your mother sends you a quick “Good morning!” message, you feel inclined to send her a “Thanks Mom!”

Likewise, if your manager sends out a notice about Tuesday’s meeting that doesn’t need a reply, you still feel pressure to send one.

To be honest, the majority of this stress is all in our heads—rooted in our brains’ perceptions of the world. But the consequences reach further than our psyches. They affect the way we do our work, experience our creativity (or don’t), and can also affect our health.

“Email is killing our productivity,” said Glei, when asked what led her to write about the subject. “The average person checks their email 11 times an hour…and spends 28% of their total workweek on email.” In other words, we check our inboxes once every 5.4 minutes on average!

So how can we start to throw off old habits and address the email conundrum?

Pay Attention to Our Email Anxiety Triggers

 

When Someone Takes a Long Time to Reply 

 

When you’re expecting a quick response to an email, and it doesn’t come, you may end up spinning explanatory stories in your head. Usually, these explanations will involve social rejection.

The human brain, especially an anxious one, tends to go for contrary reasoning over positive. You may worry that you said something hurtful without knowing it, and now your recipient is angry or hates you.

 


 

When an Email Lacks Enthusiasm 

 

When people communicate in person, a large part of that communication comes from our facial expressions, body language, and other unspoken cues.

Because email lacks this extra context, some people use various emojis or exclamation points to make their messages feel friendlier.

One downside of the practice is that anxious people when faced with an email that doesn’t include these positive signals, may read into it a level of cold neutrality or even negativity that isn’t there.

This negative bias is a common problem for anxiety sufferers.

 


 

The Number of Emails in Your Inbox and the Stress of Being Constantly Connected 

 

It’s an unfortunate fact of modern life that email takes up a considerable amount of our time and energy. This is especially true when it comes to our work, but it can often encroach on personal time as well.

It’s frustrating and stressful when you don’t have time for essential tasks because you’re continually knee-deep in your inbox.

 


 

Managing Email Anxiety

 

Managing your anxiety over emails is the same as managing stress caused by anything else.

You’ll have to learn ways to keep the fear in check, such as tracking its various triggers and finding ways to handle them in turn. Once you know your triggers, you can start brainstorming ways to stop the anxiety before it gets out of control. 

Changing your habits can be anxiety-inducing in its own way, but these solutions don’t need to turn your whole work routine upside down. Some of them are surprisingly simple, and others will become easy with practice.

The main thing is to keep at it and be proactive. You may never love sending emails, but there’s no need to live in fear of them. It’s time to overcome your anxiety with the tips and tricks we’ve gathered below.

Illustrations courtesy of Shutterstock.

This article was originally published on https://nevertherightword.com. If this article appears on any other site other than https://nevertherightword.com without clear referencing it is a violation of the copyright owned by https://nevertherightword.com.

This article may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy a product, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Never the Right Word is a participant in the Awin Affiliates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to participating merchants. For more information, please view our Privacy Policy and disclosure page.

Tips to Conquer Your Fear of Email

 

Regardless of what’s causing your email anxiety, there are options available to lessen the dread.

Consider them as a nightlight in your dark childhood bedroom—they may not eradicate the fear, but they can ease it enough for you to relax and hit send without spiraling into nightmares.

 


 

Consider the Reasons Behind Each Message You Send Out 

 

When you compose a new email, whether it’s one quick note or part of a full-on ad campaign, take time to consider why you’re sending it.

What is its purpose? Are you trying to sell a product, get more traffic to your website, or educate your recipients?

Having a specific goal in mind will help to streamline your message, reduce nervous rambling, and prevent mistakes.

 


 

Make a Checklist

 

It’s harder to lose track of things when you’re marking them off as you go. Write yourself a list of what to do before you press send.

This might include things like double-checking your hyperlinks, writing a subject line, CCing the right people, or anything else your situation might require.

 


 

Get Yourself a Second Set of Eyes

 

Unless your email is a very informal one, you don’t want it loaded with typos and grammatical errors. This is doubly true in a professional setting. It’s pretty tricky to catch your typos.

Since you’re used to the way you spell and speak, your eyes will frequently just pass over them. Having another person to proofread your emails before sending can be an invaluable asset.

When in doubt, assume that others’ message etiquette is related to them and their schedule rather than to you. When someone takes four days to reply to your email, it can be easy to panic, wondering if you said something wrong, mistyped the address, or are due for an unfavorable response. 

But how often has such a delay really been your fault? Can you think of a previous incident when a reply came late, and things still turned out fine?

Maybe the other party had a lot of work on their plate that week, or their kids were sick, and they weren’t checking their emails. These are far more likely scenarios than the catastrophes that often come to mind.

 


 

Don’t Take Silence Personally

 

If a friend or colleague doesn’t reply to your message, it may not mean as much as you think it does.

Keep in mind that you aren’t the only one drowning in emails—there are a lot of people who can’t reply to every message they get, even though they want to.

Other times, emails simply get lost in the deluge, and sometimes your recipient feels guilty for not replying but just can’t get around to it.

From now on, keep notes on times when you get anxious over a slow reply, and there turns out to be nothing negative behind it.

Collecting these examples, and referring back to them the next time you get anxious, is an excellent way of keeping your brain’s catastrophizing in check—or at least calming yourself down while you wait for a reply.

If your time is being eaten up by email, try using the free version of RescueTime’s computer time management software to track how much time you devote to it each day.

Once you have a concrete number, you can brainstorm ideas to help streamline your habits and reduce the time you’re wasting. One great way to begin is by shortening your emails.

Many require only a sentence or two in reply and can be edited way down. While some people are naturally concise in their writing, for most of us, this will require practice. 

Make sure you aren’t harder on yourself than is realistic or necessary. Do you really need to reply to work emails on weekends or late at night? Is that something that your job requires, or is it pressure you’re putting on yourself?

When you’re worried about not getting back to someone right away, remember that people have a wide variety of work schedules and lifestyles.

The person who sent you an email at 2 A.M. may simply have done so at their convenience, not expecting you to get back to them until the next business day.

 


 

Do Some Research Into How Other Professionals Handle Their Emails

 

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg keeps her inbox set up so that time-sensitive after-hours emails are flagged one way, and less urgent ones are flagged for later.

Remember, too, that email overload is a widespread problem, and many of your coworkers may be struggling with the same things. It may be helpful to put your heads together and find a solution that will help your whole office or team.

If an email you’ve received makes you anxious, reread it with an eye for what it says. Better yet, try rereading on the premise that the tone is positive.

Maybe your anxiety about emails in general, combined with your brain’s tendency toward negative bias, made you miss the email’s true meaning.

In many cases, this bias blinds us to the positive signals that are present, causing us to obsess over the tiniest evidence that might back up our fears.

Pay attention to your negative assumptions and be ready to challenge them with positive ones. Consider all the possibilities, not just the ones your anxiety tries to press on you.

The reality is that you may never know what the sender of a particular email was thinking or feeling when they wrote it. They may have been upset with you, or they may not.

That’s just how email works—and why it so often leaves us worried. By learning your own biases and how to challenge them, you can and will break free of the constant worry.

Along these same lines, try reducing the effusive frills in emails you send. This doesn’t mean you should never use a smiley face or exclamation point, but scaling back their presence can help normalize their absence for yourself and others.

Then, when you meet someone who only uses commas and periods, their messages won’t feel quite so jarring and unfriendly.

Lastly, if you’ve genuinely made a mistake in grammar, spelling, or any other element of your email, remember that you’re only human.

The recipients of your email are not likely to hold it against you, and if it needs fixing, you can always follow up with a quick apology and a corrected version.

Conclusion

 

Email can quickly feel like it’s taking over your life, but it can only do this if you allow it. Practice ways to stop obsessing over it, and you’ll open yourself up to more critical tasks. Only then, as Glei says, will you be able to focus on meaningful things that will make you feel more accomplished.

Glei’s book provides some helpful tips to win this fight. To satisfy your inner completionist, you can set small goals for yourself and track them on paper or in a digital planner, tallying up these little victories at the end of each day.

Perhaps today your goal is to reply to your five oldest emails or to delete all the junk mail from last week. To shrug off the “rule of reciprocity,” it may help to start looking at your emails like you would a pile of paper letters. 

Would you really expect yourself to reply to every notecard and bill you receive? (If the answer is yes, you might want to rethink that too.) Instituting a schedule for checking your inbox can keep you from doing it so often: maybe first thing in the morning and once in the afternoon, or whatever equivalent works for you.

Glei also suggests taking shortcuts, like setting up templates to make replying to common subjects quick and easy, rather than having to work on a new reply every time. She includes a variety of possible templates in the book.

For example, to extract yourself from an ongoing email conversation that no longer concerns you, you might say something like:

It sounds like you two can handle this from here! Let me know if you need my input again, but for now, could you move me to BCC?

Or maybe:

Dave—Could you move me to BCC when you reply to this? I’m trying to fight through my cluttered inbox 🙂

By using these tips, you’ll be able to alleviate your fears and feel confident each time you hit send.

At Never the Right Word, our aim is to give you practical examples of how to handle life’s difficult conversations. If you have an awkward situation that you’d like example templates for, request a topic here.   

If you’re interested in further reading, we’ve also included links to our trusted resources and related posts below. To find out more about NTRW and our recommended tools, you can do that here.  

Lastly, if you found this content helpful or want to share your own examples, let us know in the comments. We’d also be delighted if you shared this article and joined us on social media too!

Never the Right Word

Never the Right Word

Hi there! I’m Amy, and I’m the person behind Never the Right Word. I’m a designer-by-day who’s fascinated by human psychology; you’ll find me learning about what makes others tick through all types of media and good old-fashioned conversation.

In 2019 Never the Right Word was born to fill the gap of ‘how-to’ websites with copy and paste examples showing you EXACTLY what you need to say to steer difficult conversations into positive outcomes.

Popular Articles...

Relevant Books We Recommend...

Rewire Your Anxious Brain

In Rewire Your Anxious Brain, author, and psychologist Catherine Pittman and author Elizabeth Karle offer a unique, evidence-based solution (based in cutting-edge neuroscience and research) to overcoming anxiety. This book offers a greater understanding of how anxiety is created in the mind, and as a result, you will feel empowered and motivated to overcome it. The brain is an incredibly powerful tool, and the more you work to change the way you respond to fear, the more resilient you will become. Using the practical self-assessments and proven-effective techniques in this book, you will learn to literally “rewire” the brain processes that lie at the root of your fears. CLICK HERE to get a copy of this book.

Rewire

In Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits readers are given a road–map to overcoming the most common self-destructive habits, including procrastination, excessive worrying, internet addiction, overeating, risk-taking, and self-medication, among others. By learning the valuable skills and habits outlined in the book, including (our favorite) mindfulness, self-control, confronting fear, and freeing yourself from mindless guilt- we can open ourselves to vastly happier, successful, and fulfilling lives. A fantastic read for anyone who wants to take control of their life. CLICK HERE to get your copy of Rewire.

Sane New World

In Sane New World: Bestseller by author Ruby Wax, we are shown how our minds function and how this can affect our mental health. With this book, you can become the master of your mind. This book is the ultimate guide to taking control of your thought processes. Wax has a wealth of experience and knowledge on the topic, from her own periods of depression and now a Masters from Oxford in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy to draw from. In Sane New World, we're introduced to the main causes of anxiety and stress: self-critical thoughts. In order to overcome this, we first need to understand how our brains work and rewire our thought processes. CLICK HERE to get your copy.

Calm: Working through life's daily stresses to find a peaceful centre (Paperback)

Calm is author Fearne Cotton's mission to find the simple things that can inch us away from stress and over to the good stuff. Including expert advice, conversations with wise friends from all walks of life, easy ideas to try, activities to complete - and the little things that have made a difference to her own, sometimes-bumpy life - this book is a friendly reminder that Calm is a place that exists in us all, we just have to find our way back to it. CLICK HERE to get your copy from Book Depository.

Pin Never the Right Word on Pinterest!

Like Our Site? These Are the Resources We Recommend.

To build this site we used these highly recommended tried-and-tested tools:

We Trust Elegant Themes

The Elegant Themes membership gives you complete access to 87 amazing themes and 3 awesome plugins, including Divi, the ultimate WordPress Theme and Visual Page builder. Elegant Themes have been building the world's most popular WordPress themes for the past 10 years, and rest assured their products will always be improved and maintained. 

Divi WordPress Theme

We Build With Divi Theme

One of the most popular WordPress themes in the world. Building layouts is easy and fast, making it ideal to create mockups and wireframes, prototyping a design, and creating the website itself. Build from the frontend or backend. The builder is intuitive. It's easy to learn and can be used by non-developers to create amazing websites. Check out the official Divi Theme here.

Divi Cake is a community driven marketplace for Divi Child Themes, Builder Layouts, and Plugins - Shop Now!

We Customize With Divi Cake Plugins

Divi Cake’s main goal is to help the members of the Divi community find the perfect premium Divi themes, layouts, and plugins created by leading Divi developers and designers. Shop hundreds of premium Divi products like Divi child themes, Divi layouts, and Divi plugins on Divi Cake, the community driven Divi Marketplace. Find out more about Divi Cake here.

We ❤️Shutterstock Media

We get our images from the OG leader in stock assets. Boost your business with the right images. They're royalty-free and ready to use. Footage & Music Libraries. 4k Images Added per Hour. No Daily Download Limit. Speedy Search & Discovery. With flexible plans and countless amounts of premium content uploaded weekly, we couldn't leave Shutterstock off our list.

Skill-Up With LinkedIn Learning

When you want to enhance your professional skills with expert-led, online video tutorials, the only place to go is LinkedIn Learning (Lynda). With a subscription you get 24/7, unlimited access to over 13,000 business, design & tech online courses and with a free month. We like them because we get expert-led courses that we can access anytime, anywhere. What's not to love?

Web Hosting

We're Hosted With SiteGround

SiteGround boasts a whole list of fantastic features at amazingly affordable prices. Along with multiple growth options, free site transfers and domains, built in Content Delivery Network integrations, WordPress support AND human support we wouldn't go to anyone else. They're basically faster, safer and more supportive- you can check them out here.

We Trust Grammarly Premium

Even seasoned writers need a helping hand at times, that’s why we trust Grammarly Premium. As the World's Most Accurate Online Grammar Checker, Grammarly Premium goes beyond grammar to help you ensure that everything you write is clear, engaging, and professional. Learn more about Grammarly Premium’s AI-powered assistant here.

Find Graphics With Creative Market

Creative Market is the world’s marketplace for design. Bring your creative projects to life with ready-to-use design assets from independent creators around the world. We love the unique finds, social media templates, vectors you name it they have it. I also doesn't hurt that our founder has a little store on there...

Powered by Creative Market

Powered by Creative Market

Contact Us

Email Us

Never the Right Word
Building 19475
PO Box 6945
London
W1A 6US
United Kingdom

Follow NTRW

Support NTRW

Become a Patron!
Donate to Never the Right Word and keep us accessible to all. Thank you!

Stay in the Loop

error: Content is protected !!

Pin It on Pinterest