Digital Communications

Have you ever had a text conversation that went something like this:

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What’s your initial response?

If you’re like most of us, you’re thinking something like,

“Come on, John! Throw me a bone. I got the report done 2 days ahead of schedule and all you’re concerned about is me CCing you on the email?! Also, would it kill you to spell out ‘thanks’ to show your appreciation? Not to mention it took you almost a whole day to respond!”

Meanwhile, John is actually grateful for your work, he just didn’t match your tone via text.

What if instead, the conversation went like this?

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Are you mad at John now? Probably not.

We talk a lot about in-person conversations and face-to-face meet-ups, but this week is all about the power of your written words.

The follow-up email and quickly written note are just as impactful and meaningful in developing that new relationship as your friendly smile.

When you’re building new relationships—or nurturing old ones—it’s critical to be aware of your tone in the written word. Good news...we’ve got some tools to help.


Most of the problems of life that be,

Are caused by the tone of speech only,

It is never what is said in reality,

But how it’s said that causes harm truly.
— Munindra (Munnan) Misra, Eddies of Life

WHY CONVEYING TONE IS DIFFICULT

First off, don’t worry. We weren’t designed to do the majority of our communication in writing.

Actually, here are 6 times a phone call or in-person meet up is better than sending an email or text.

But, I digress. Back to written communication.

Albert Mehrabian, a professor at UCLA, has spent the greater part of his tenure studying how people communicate. In one study, he found that in a face-to-face conversation, communication is 55% body language, 38% vocal tone, pitch and emphasis, and a mere 7% is the literal content of the message.

When face-to-face, we’re constantly taking in non-verbal cues—and, as Mehrabian argues, that makes up well over half of how we understand a conversation.

Knowing the literal content makes up only 7% of an effectively communicated message, what are we supposed to do when it comes to crafting an email or text?


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TIPS FOR TONE SUCCESS

Awareness is key. By identifying the tone of a text or email, you can craft an appropriate response.

So what kind of tones are there? In Grammarly’s Tone 101 article, they deliver some prime examples to help you identify the tone of a message.

“Let’s say you were invited to someone’s party. Here are a few examples of tones that can be employed in a response:

Enthusiastic: I’d love to!
Casual: Sounds good [thumbs up emoji]
Formal: I would be happy to join you.
Irreverent: But I HATE parties [winking/smiling tongue out emoji]
Joyful: Yay! Yes!
Solemn/Serious: Thank you for the invite, but I’m afraid I can’t at this time.
Hostile: Why would you even invite me, Susan?
Cautious: …What time does it start?
Indifferent: kk”

While you can always put your personal spin on a response, use the list above to determine how your written message can be received.

Here are 5 tips for success:

  1. Choose Your Words (and Emojis) Wisely: When in doubt—opt for a more positive tone. Without the non-verbal cues from in-person contact, people are more likely to read a text and assume the worst. By choosing to put a more positive spin on a message—either through an uplifting emoji or heartfelt exclamation point or enthusiastic word choice, you minimize potential trouble in response.

  2. Punctuation Matters: Have you ever received an email or text that failed to employ even ONE non-controversial period? While you shouldn’t end every sentence with 5 exclamation points (unless you are legitimately enthused about your team winning the big game), a comma, period, or—gasp—even an em dash will go a long way in helping your reader make sense of your message.

  3. Know Your Audience: If you’re reaching out to a new friend, then casual and friendly is the way to go. But if you’re replying to an executive at your company, it would be best to respond with something more grammatically substantial than just “yep.”

  4. Read it Out Loud: This little trick is an empathy check. By saying your words out loud—like you would in a face-to-face conversation—it’s much easier to identify potential pitfalls from the receiver. If you wouldn’t say the written words to their face, then go ahead and redraft that message.

  5. TL;DR? Just Call: If your email or text is starting to rival a newspaper article, then pick up the phone. Unless you’re intentionally writing a book, don’t belabor your point any longer in an email or text.

As a superconnector, it’s important to hone all of your communication skills—both verbal and written. By becoming an expert in tone, you’ll eliminate the chance for delivering a misconstrued text message or unintentionally hurting feelings.

Use these 5 tips to step up your written communication game and keep building those meaningful relationships!