A software company has developed a new plugin that scans user emails for potentially self-demeaning words and phrases. The plugin, entitled “Just Not Sorry,” identifies thoughts such as “I just,” “Sorry,” “I think” and others in order to alert writers to qualifiers included in their correspondence that may indicate weakness or disempowerment.
The extension is the brainchild of Cyrus Innovations, a software company whose CEO, Tami Reiss, co-invented “Just Not Sorry” as part of a program known as the Female Founder Initiative, whose aim is to help women succeed in business and technology.
“The women in these rooms were all softening their speech in situations that called for directness and leadership. We had all inadvertently fallen prey to a cultural communication pattern that undermined our ideas,” said Reiss. “As entrepreneurial women, we run businesses and lead teams — why aren’t we writing with the confidence of their positions? There was the desire to change, but there wasn’t a tool to help.
The extension is currently available on the Chrome Web Store as a Google Chrome plug-in for Gmail, the world’s most popular email client. It automatically scans an email and underlines potentially self-demeaning and disempowering phrases, alerting the writer prior to sending. Hovering over the identified sets of words provides additional written insight into the reasons they may be considered problematic. If the email’s creator chooses to ignore the identified portions, the underlining does not appear on the email when opened by its recipient.
We applaud the concept, as it can help writers to identify particular patterns of word usage that they may be currently unaware of and could potentially undermine their message. It is important though, that users of the extension carefully consider the context in which the identified phrases are utilized, in order to determine if their word choice is really inappropriate. Words like “actually” and even “sorry” itself should not be dismissed outright as inappropriate or disempowering, depending on the situation in which they are used.
It’s also important to point out that while the extension was developed by and for women, that doesn’t mean it can’t be just as helpful to men, who may not necessarily use the disempowering phrases in the same proportion as women do, but nonetheless employ them on a regular basis as well.