Saturday, April 25, 2009

InternEtiquette - Part II

Good day, everybody! It's a beautiful Saturday morning here in Orlando, Florida!

Continuing the mission of spreading good manners and kindness in our online world, today's focus is on:
  • Enhancing your online written communication to avoid possible conflict
  • Watching the content you post; mind your readers!

To start, let's have a look at an example: I am writing to you, whether it is via e-mail, instant messenger, blog comments section, Facebook, Orkut or any other social medium: "I think you did the right thing" You probably know what I am making reference to when I write this to you, however, you don't really know how I am telling you this. Am I confident in my words? Am I rather skeptic? Maybe I am happy? Notice that I didn't use punctuation in the sentence on purpose. You don't know how many e-mails I receive with no punctuation. It's almost like a written nightmare. Without punctuation, you run the risk of total misinterpretation. Let's not get into grammar coaching here, but I cannot emphasize enough how important commas, exclamation and question marks or periods are. I was perplexed when a high school counselor e-mailed me an email with no greeting and closing note, and no use of punctuation! Uff! Enhancing your words with adjectives, adverbs punctuation and "visual words" helps your reader understand how you are expressing yourself in your written delivery. It helps your reader "listen to your voice" when he/she reads your mail.

"I honestly think you did the right thing, without a doubt in my mind!" conveys the full idea: What you want to say and how you want to say it.

Instead of replying to an e-mail by writing: "That's a good start. Keep it up.", write: "I think the first ideas you showed in your table are a wonderful way to start the project. It gives it dimension. Keep up the good work you demonstrated in that table and the bullet points below. Let's bring more content to it, though." People can't read what your entire thoughts are, and while assuming is something we just have to do on a daily basis anyway, if you are expecting a 2-way communication to be truly effective, make sure you enhance your written e-mail communication.

Time should never be an issue here. It takes just a few more seconds to add words, explanations, "smiley faces" and question marks. In addition, by taking 1 additional minute to write it out, you'll be saving time later on not having to explain what you meant in the first place.

Once I wrote an e-mail to a training manager. It had about 2 small paragraphs with a few questions and thoughts I had. The answer I received was (and I will never forget my reaction to it): "Call me as soon as you can." Was he upset? Was he in a huge hurry? Was he at least somewhat happy about what I had sent him? I was confused by the too short and almost rude answer. I didn't know what to make of it. On the phone, soon after, our conversation was delightful! Had he sent an enhanced e-mail, he would have been able to communicate with me much more efficiently and avoid any misinterpretation!

Second topic: Watch the content you post! I read a comment someone posted about certain presentations being "so lame". Not only did this person insult all the other classmates who share the same social medium online and who were actually presenting on that day, but the content posted created a "did you see what So&So wrote?!" type of online gossip. Now, that is something we all don't have time for. A friend of mine decided to blog about her "dumb colleagues who think they know it all" and wrote a paragraph about one certain lady. The lady ended up reading it, and my friend's reputation was drastically affected. Negatively, needless to say. She had to apologize by blogging about it. Another one commented on a certain holiday being "so fake and consumption driven" and "a waste and ridiculous", not taking into consideration that others in his own tight circle celebrate it all the way, and love it. What are you trying to do to yourself, I ask? I never advocate against critique, however, it can always be done in a kinder way. There is no doubt about that.

Remember, nothing is ever totally deleted in our world wide web.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

InternEtiquette - Part I

A few topics deserve more posts. Like the "Iffy Situations" series that I started, I will dedicate a few posts to, ...let's call it InternEtiquette!

This is a topic hard to tackle due to its complexity. It involves so many aspects, applications, "places", things, words, information, web sites, logos, e-mails, social media, pictures, viruses, privacy, copyright issues,...Uff! But please, note, I am not a lawyer...I will focus on the politeness that is so often forgotten in the online world. My suggestions and advice come entirely from my experience in the Etiquette Business.

My first on the list: E-MAILS!

What I have been noticing:

  • People who don't greet others when e-mailing: By leaving out a "Hello, John! How are you today?" you send the message that the content is more important than your manners and respect for others. How do you speak to others on the phone? You greet them first, correct?
  • People who don't finish their e-mails with an appropriate closing note: By not saying "Goodbye!", "Have a nice day, and I'll talk to you later!" or "Thank you for your e-mail" you are definitely not considering good manners and god communication. It is like hanging up on somebody via e-mail!
  • People who misspell (and not by accident) and use wrong grammar: No excuses here. I only tolerate it when people are using English as their second or third language. If English is your first language, you should never, and I repeat, never, use wrong grammar and spell words incorrectly. It shows lack of care, lack of attention and lack of respect for yourself and others.
  • People forwarding your e-mails and e-mail addresses to others without your "permission": Here is a tricky one. I would never wrongly judge my mother for forwarding my e-mails with pictures of my daughter and us to her cousins and best friends! I know she does it out of love. Being far away, e-mail has become one of our main modes of communication. I appreciate my mom and friends caring!However, apparently my personal e-mail address was given out to a lady constantly sending out messages about events that, unfortunately, don't interest me. I don't know her well, but know a few people who know her. You get the idea.
  • People not answering your e-mails: Once I wrote about the time management excuse of "I don't have time". Thus, if you don't answer e-mails promptly (urgent ones on the same day and non-urgent ones within 48h, Internet access being available, of course), you are sending out the message that you don't have time for that person's issues, comments, questions etc. You are mostly, however, sending out the message that you have time (of course, we all have time!), but you choose to do with it something else than answering your friend, client, family member. If you have an e-mail account, expect people to e-mail you. Check it daily. Make it a habit! It has become one of the most common and convenient communication modes. If you have one, use it, or people will lose interest in e-mailing you!

These are some of the basic faux-pas of e-mailing that I consider mentioning. I have not gone into content yet. Next time, let's talk about e-mail content and social media! It is amazing, how social media has become part of our lives as people and business people. For now, have a good one, everybody, and I look forward to your comments and questions!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Definitely talk the talk, walk the walk, do as you preach!

Unfortunately, I must say, it has happened quite often that I personally sent an e-mail to someone in the business world, without ever receiving an answer back. Many of them have been compliments and questions, and none of them have been about pitching services. Ever. The most ironic thing is that the majority of my e-mail recipients have clearly stated "E-mail me anytime! I'm here to answer your questions! Or call me!". None of them were celebrities.

Maybe I should have called, because e-mail didn't work.
Some of the people I am referring to are in a business similar to mine. You would think that at least these people apparently practicing good manners would understand the value of contacting someone back when they receive mail.


Sometimes we can't contact someone back as soon as we wished, but to let weeks and even months go by is just a shame. Professionals should know better. There is a sense of urgency that is lost, but that can be recovered.

How can you ensure you don't end up in a person's short-term memory, "leave it for later" folder, mails, calls and ultimately "forgot who you were" junk box?

  • Persistence
  • Social grace
  • Content quality
  • Added value
  • Understanding
Follow up with an e-mail or call if you don't hear from the person after 48h. If you still don't hear anything and you really need to reach the person, you may want to try calling instead of e-mailing. Don't give up, but never push.
Always be friendly, polite, smile when you speak and write, and mind your word choice.
Be straight to the point. If the person is known to be busy, be short and efficient in your communication style. Remember, people like to be associated to those they feel they have something in common with. Your content has to be appealing and self-explanatory as to why you are contacting them.
Offer value to them. I will talk about VALUE in my next post. (think about what it means to you in the meantime).
Understand circumstances change daily, hourly. Understand how you are approaching them, and re-evaluate it. Understand some people, unfortunately, are not good communicators.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Boastful communication

I had the pleasure of meeting a very nice lady today who, after learning about my work, asked me in a whisper: "How do I deal with these Moms who think their baby is the smartest, the cutest, the best, the fastest and just perfect, and verbalize it to the whole world?!"

That is a very valid question. I believe it is common for a loving mother to believe her child is amazing. I know it, because I have a young daughter, and I am completely in love with her.

I told my new friend that the most polite thing to do is to share the enthusiasm of that mother. You can use phrases such as "This is wonderful!" or "It is great she is developing so fast!", but don't feel obliged to hang around for another 10 minutes for more of "My child is the best" type conversation.
You may excuse yourself politley and change rooms, find another friend to chat with or leave, if it applies.

Personally, I think sharing important milestones being reached, such as walking, talking, reading, writing, sleeping over at a friend's house, helping around the house, is a great thing to do.

Bragging about it is not. Bragging usually comes accompanied by arrogance and exaggeration. Implied comparisons and boastful comments contribute to a very uncomfortable and even hostile interaction, whether in person, over the phone or even online. This goes far beyond mothers bragging about their children to others.
This applies to many, many situations we face everyday in our social and in our business lives.

The problem with bragging is that it immeditaley has a negative conotation. Even worse, it can be done in a non-verbal matter as well. While bragging is created through a carefully throught through verbal delivery (words, tone of voice, exclamations), our body posture, facial expressions, looks, arm gestures have a great impact.

Bragging is not healthy and sets us up for disappointment and failure. It secludes us socially and might even create labels around our persona, such as, as mentioned before, arrogant, high maintenance and difficult to be around.

There are tacful ways to let others know about your accomplishments or your child's accomplishments:
  • Start by expressing how greatful and happy your are: "I'm so happy today!"
  • Have a smile on your face and look the person in the eye (if talking in person)
  • Continue with "something happened that really made my day yesterday!..."
  • This will trigger interest by the other person
  • Tell your story and keep it very short and simple "Susie was given a little award for demosntrating great behavior in school! I was truly touched!"
  • You are not saying words/phrases such as "best", "perfect", "I knew it", "She is the best in there anyways", "My little girl is so perfect" or "She's just above average in all she does" - You don't need to comment on the story. Tell the story and that's it. Let the other person share with comments and questions.
If you are on the other end of the conversation and are trying to "control" it a bit (you want to avoid hearing bragging comments), keep it short and simple too. Tell them "That's wonderful!" and when the opportunity arises, change topics.

...By the way, let me change topics and comment about the coffee poll below. Starbucks won! Is that surprising to you?