In the brave new world of digital communications it is important to know whether you are abiding by accepted netiquette or if you are inadvertently upsetting the viewer or recipient of your information.
Anybody who has used their ‘phone for texting, or been stung by an e-mail that has unintentionally caused upset, will know that in the 21st century relationships can be ruined and business partnerships seriously damaged by the wrong ‘tone’ or even use of punctuation.
For some time it has been known that the flattened tones of e-mails can make a simple request sound like a demand and can turn something meant to be humorous into something that sounds rude. That is, of course, why smiley faces (or a whole host of ‘emoticons’) are used so much nowadays – just in case anyone takes a comment the wrong way. But even smiley faces and the like can be interpreted as being sarcastic.
And what of text talk? By that we mean abbreviations that were originally used in texts so that people didn’t have to write out long words on a tiny mobile phone keyboard. So instead of writing “obviously” they wrote “obvs”. This then evolved into using the structure that the rock star Prince started in the 1980s – using numbers instead of words, so “before” became “b4”, “great” became “gr8” and both “to” and “too” became, you guessed it, “2”. Phrases such as “what are you up to?” became “wuu2”, “your” or “you are” became “ur”, “just wondered” became “jw”, “doesn’t matter” became “dm”, “in my humble opinion” became “IMHO” – and we won’t spell out “cba”!
There are many more, of course, but the question is when is it acceptable to use such text talk? It isn’t necessarily a generational issue but the younger people in business are now so familiar with this mode of communication that they might not think it inappropriate to use it in their e-mails and other messages to people they are working with.
So is it acceptable? If you have a good relationship with a client, is it okay to write “c u later” (or even “c u l8r” if you’re an advanced texter)? It might not be right to send that to a client but maybe you could send it to a supplier. You could certainly get away with sending it to a colleague, as long as you were sure that they would not be offended or unimpressed.
There are some business leaders who will have an absolute zero-tolerance to communications being in anything other than the traditional language and format. Some will even baulk at starting an e-mail with “Hi Fred” rather than “Dear Fred” or even “Dear Mr ….”. However, it does seem acceptable now to address even the Prime Minister with “Hi Dave” (no, definitely not “Yo Blair”!) and how many people actually write out “okay” instead of using the abbreviation “OK”? That is obviously completely acceptable.
So what should you do? At Changeworks, we believe that communications between all parties should always be kept as professional as possible. Yes, of course we embrace the informal approach but you should always bear in mind what the recipient will think on receiving your message.
When they see you sign off with “c u later” will they think you are being trendy, overly-familiar or downright unprofessional?
And in e-mails, firing a quick one off is never a good idea. It always pays to read then re-read your messages before sending them. And if you really can’t get that tone right and your words are still coming across as rude, why not pick up the ‘phone – most nuances are eliminated when people hear your voice instead of reading your words.
The bottom line is this – always think to yourself: will how I communicate with this person to make them think better of me or worse? And in any relationship, I think we can all agree that the former is what we want to achieve, avoiding the latter wherever possible.
To learn more about communications, contact Changeworks through this link or call 01785 247588.