An emoji puts some emo­tion back into our vir­tual com­mu­ni­ca­tions

It’s im­por­tant peo­ple know what you’re feel­ing — more im­por­tant than what you are say­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - Business - JAY ROBB @jay­robb lives in Hamilton and has re­viewed busi­ness books for the Hamilton Spec­ta­tor since 1999.

I take pride in hav­ing never put an emoji into a work email.

Nick Mor­gan says it’s time to swal­low my pride and start send­ing out smi­ley faces.

“Yes, they run the risk of seem­ing child­ish,” says Mor­gan, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions coach and au­thor of “Can You Hear Me?”

“But they do let the re­cip­i­ent know what you’re feel­ing. And that’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant — way more im­por­tant than what you’re ac­tu­ally say­ing.”

An emoji puts some emo­tion back into our vir­tual com­mu­ni­ca­tions and helps re­duces the risk of mis­un­der­stand­ing and mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

“The vir­tual world bleaches out hu­man emo­tion and takes away one of the deep joys of hu­man in­ter­ac­tion — that sense of near si­mul­tane­ity, when you and I are in sync, com­mu­ni­cat­ing ef­fort­lessly, im­me­di­ately and pas­sion­ately with hardly any sense at all of the dis­tance be­tween us.”

Mor­gan says vir­tual com­mu­ni­ca­tions suf­fer five ba­sic problems. There’s a lack of feed­back, em­pa­thy, control, emo­tion and com­mit­ment.

“Hu­mans crave con­nec­tion and the vir­tual world seems end­lessly so­cial. But real con­nec­tion, like de­ci­sion-mak­ing, is based on emo­tions.

“Take the emo­tions out, and we feel alone more of­ten than makes sense. The bond­ing that nat­u­rally hap­pens when peo­ple meet face-to-face and size each other up, fall in love, find mu­tual in­ter­ests, and so on, is lack­ing.

“And thus with thou­sands of Twit­ter fol­low­ers, oo­dles of In­sta­gram and Face­book friends, and a huge LinkedIn com­mu­nity, we’re still left end­lessly chas­ing the junk food of con­nec­tion on­line — likes, clicks and links that give us a pass­ing thrill but no real sense of con­nec­tion.”

Your em­ployer won’t be shut­ting down the email sys­tem so Mor­gan has some prac­ti­cal fixes to make the best of what he calls a messy, im­per­fect and over­whelm­ing im­pov­er­ished method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Lead off your email with a one sen­tence head­line that clearly an­swers the “what’s in it for me” ques­tion that ev­ery­one asks when an­other email lands in our in­box.

Ruth­lessly edit your emails. “Writ­ing needs clar­ity, a point of view, a clear idea, hi­er­ar­chi­cal think­ing and grace of ex­pres­sion.”

Prac­tice re­straint. Tell us some­thing we don’t know but don’t tell us ev­ery­thing. “We only crave a lit­tle ex­tra knowl­edge,” says Mor­gan.

Don’t send a hot email that stings with snark. Prac­tice sel­f­re­straint. Sleep on an email be­fore you hit send.

Never email a brick at the last minute, says Mor­gan.

“One of the most ir­ri­tat­ing fea­tures of mod­ern dig­i­tal life is the last-minute com­mu­ni­ca­tion.” It’s the 50-page re­port or Pow­erPoint deck that lands in your in­box at 8:30 a.m. to be dis­cussed at the 9 a.m. team meet­ing. “Don’t send last-minute read­ing bricks to oth­ers and don’t ready them if they come from some­one else. That’s a rule we all need to live by.”

And if you want and ex­pect a re­sponse to your email? Ex­plic­itly ask for it.

Mor­gan also of­fers strate­gies for im­prov­ing con­fer­ence calls, we­bi­nars and chat ses­sions.

“Our very hu­man job now is to learn to put the emo­tional and the mem­o­rable back into this at­ten­u­ated world that has sprung up around us, the dig­i­tal dragon’s teeth we have sown and that have brought us vir­tual con­ve­nience and speed — at far too high a price.”

“Can You Hear Me? How to Con­nect with Peo­ple in a Vir­tual World” by Nick Mor­gan, Har­vard Busi­ness Re­view Press $39

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