Is your electronic communication an accurate reflection of who you are?

It’s important to remember that your “brand” (who you are, in the eyes of the world at large – your reputation) is being formed at all times. Every presentation of yourself should be an accurate reflection of you. If not, fix it.

These days, in a time when many people interact electronically far more than face-to-face, misrepresentation can and does happen all the time. How many times have you spoken with someone on the phone who you viewed as rude, then met them in person and discovered they’re actually quite charming? It’s even worse in a world of emails and instant messages, and possibly far more detrimental (it’s in writing!)

The way I see it, there may be three reasons for this …

1) Some people really are more rude when they’re not interacting with a live person. They do and/or say things they wouldn’t if a “real” person was sitting across from them.

2) Others are misinterpreted as being rude, simply because they’re too direct or matter-of-fact in their communication.

3) Human gestures, facial expressions and (sometimes most importantly) inflections are missing from online communication. Sure, there are “emoticons”, but once you’re past your tween years, they’re probably not appropriate for most interactions.

Rapport is key. Without one, you may run into trouble.

My assistant and I have known each other for nearly eight years. Because of this, and probably millions of emails back and forth, we instinctively KNOW how to read one another – electronically. She knows when a directive is serious or when I’m being sarcastic. We’ve developed an electronic rapport. But imagine if I interacted with someone new in the same way? I can’t expect someone I’m not familiar with to “just know” what I mean, and I could be truly risking my brand in the process.

So, how do you interact effectively, online, without a rapport?

First, you must always be mindful of its absence. You may write something with an intended inflection in your head – one that would make the statement charming or light-hearted, but could that statement be misinterpreted without that inflection? If so, you need to either clarify the statement or skip it.

Next, you must take care of how harsh your tone may appear. If you stick to “just the facts” in correspondence, will you viewed as pushy, biting or rude? Re-read your communication and, if appropriate, add in verbiage that softens what you’re saying. Often, this is as simple as opening with a nice “how are you” greeting BEFORE jumping right to your point. Warm it up.

Finally, if you’re one of “those people” who truly is rude when not dealing face-to-face with a live person, STOP IT. This is inappropriate and unnecessary. Remember the old adage – “you catch more flies with honey”? It’s true. Start recognizing electronic communication for what it is – a chance to stop and think about what you’re going to say before you say it. Use that opportunity your advantage.


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