Considering that we all live in such a digital age with eyes constantly glued to our screens, it’s shocking how poor online communication continues to pervade our daily lives. Not only do others commit daily online faux pas, we are also perpetrators, most times without even knowing it!
Here are 3 Ways to Improve Your Online Etiquette and how you can improve your communication style for the professional you!
#1. First and foremost, always be polite in your messages by pre-ambling with a friendly foundation such as: “I hope you’re well” or “I hope you had a nice weekend” or “I hope you’re having a nice week”. Don’t automatically jump straight to business on the first communication, even if it’s someone you think you know well! You may think you’re being efficient by launching into the topic, but your reader may not. If you saw someone in the hallway, would you neglect to say hi and to ask “How are you?” then go right into business mode? Why should an online communication start out any different?
One of my good friends from college received a note from another classmate, who automatically grilled her for interview tips as he had just applied for the company she worked at. Without so much as a “Hi, how are you? Been a while, long time no see…” he went straight into “me, me, me” mode. I can’t blame her for feeling slighted thus not responding. His assumption was that he had every right to demand information without any semblance of sincerity or care. What was in it for her? Nothing! He neglected to incorporate the only thing he could offer her, which in this case, was genuine curiosity and interest in her current life which just happened to include her employer.
Without a friendly intro, you may be potentially being regarded as too self-serving with little regard for the person at the receiving end.
Continuing along the same vein, #2. Write the message with the mentality of “What’s in it for your reader?” Always think about how best to suit the reader’s need, not your own agenda. Otherwise, the message will lack sophistication and persuasion. If you’re making it blatantly obvious you want something, at least do it in a way that will make the reader feel more motivated to succumb to your request. Put yourself in their shoes – if you were in their seat, what are the factors that will draw you to the message?
Is being rude, demanding, or commanding really going to get you to your goal? If not, pivot your communication strategy to that individual and the way they like to be treated to achieve your result. Sometimes, it’s worth it to sacrifice your ego and treat others the way they want to be treated, not the way you want to treat them.
TIP: Think about this switching of vantage points like the process of translation. How can I say what I want in a way that it appeals to others? Replace words like “I” and “me” with “WE”. Substitute, “I think you should…” with “It would be great for you if you were to…”. All these nuances matter. Subconsciously it plays a big part in the way you’ll be perceived!
Lastly, #3. Double check your online communication by putting on your boss’s hat. Would your boss approve? Or if you’re self-employed, would your readers approve? Nowadays, people are constantly losing their jobs over contentious words or ideas they’ve spread through the news, social media (Twitter, youtube) and certainly, email! How many times have you broken out in a cold sweat after writing then sending something you probably should have deleted?
Countless firings of CEOs, VPs and employees litter the path social media has paved. Unfortunately, this trend is only going to continue climbing upward, expanding to every profession and age group. Highschools and elementary schools are bombarded by cyberbullying which continues into adulthood as everyone has become victim to “trolling”.
It’s incredible how something as innocuous as a keyboard may actually RUIN YOUR LIFE. Please double check your actions on public forums. As I wrote in 3 Common Abuses of LinkedIn, freedom of speech is a blessing and a curse.
TIP: A good rule of thumb is following the mantra:
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
In this case, it’s write. Writing is more powerful than saying because it is actually physical evidence. You’re better off calling someone if you have a bone to pick. Again, try to keep it as positive as possible because people will likely come around to your viewpoint if you treat them with respect and more importantly, listen.
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