Smiley Faces in the Workplace

December 30th, 2009

by Lauren Shapiro*

“Let them hear you smile through the phone.”

Flickr Image: Sara Eloise

Flickr Image: Sara Eloise

A mantra of corporate communications consultants that we have all heard once, twice, a million times, this statement is and will continue to be a staple in the business world. But in today’s email-centric society… it is very outdated.

Now, change the statement to “Let them hear you smile through the computer” and you have a very pressing problem for corporate communicators in every industry.

The art of communication has evolved throughout the years and has forced communicators to change the way they send and receive messages. In face-to-face communication, we use many tools to understand the message that is being sent such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body language. In telephone communication we lose the aforementioned cues, but inherit a keener sense for tone of voice and intonation. As speakers, we place emphasis on certain words to help the listener understand the meaning of the message – such as smiling with your voice.

Email lacks both the verbal and nonverbal cues that we have been trained to use as communication context clues. This can lead to email miscommunication – where the intended meaning of a message is misinterpreted by the receiver (e.g., a sarcastic statement is taken to be serious). Emoticons, such as using a colon with closed parentheses to denote a smiling face, were created to provide computer generated facial expressions used to assist the email sender in guiding the email receiver to the intended emotion of the message.

Emoticons play an important role in reducing the amount of email miscommunication. However, are emoticons appropriate for professional communication? In her blog post, “The Role of the Emoticon in Business Correspondence,” Eileen Schlesier says absolutely not! What do you think?

If you’re happy and you know it – colon, closed parentheses.

*Bio: Soon after graduating from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, in 2006 with a B.A. in communication and a B.S. in business/marketing, I joined the BurrellesLuce client services team. In 2008, I completed my master’s degree in corporate and organizational communications and now work as the supervisor of BurrellesLuce Express client services. I am passionate about researching and understanding the role of email in shaping relationships from a client relation/service standpoint as well as how miscommunication occurs within email, which was the topic of my thesis. Through my posts on Fresh Ideas, I hope to educate and stimulate thoughtful discussions about corporate communications and client relations, further my own knowledge on this subject area, as well as continue to hone my skills as a communicator. Twitter: @_LaurenShapiro_ LinkedIn: laurenrshapiro Facebook: BurrellesLuce 

4 Responses to “Smiley Faces in the Workplace”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Johna Burke, BurrellesLuce. BurrellesLuce said: "Smily Faces in the Workplace" @_laurenshapiro_ weighs in on BurrellesLuce blog #business #email […]

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by BurrellesLuce: “Smily Faces in the Workplace” @_laurenshapiro_ weighs in on BurrellesLuce blog #business #email…

  3. Thanks so much for the mention! Great article,
    Eileen Schlesier

  4. Lauren Shapiro says:

    Thanks, Eileen! Your blog post was thought provoking. I very much enjoyed it!

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