Internet communication etiquetteLaura Lynn Burkee-mail, non-verbal communication, Web site appearance, spelling, grammar As we all know, e-mail has become one of our most effective forms of communication. Let's look at how we have evolved our communication process, and what effect it has on your business. Caveman communication When people lived in caves, their communication might not have consisted of much more than grunts, gestures and facial expressions, but they had to have had some ways of expressing such messages as: "I'm not intending to beat you, and I hope you feel the same," or "You take that side of the mammoth and I'll take this side and let's hope we get him before he gets us." Today's interrelations are more complex, and so are the messages, but the co-existence remains. Communication and interpersonal relations are in fact entwined. There are many types of communications, the two most common of which are touch and smell--neither of which are in our e-mail communications. Non-verbal communication speaks volumes Let's take a look at cultural and non-verbal communication and why the interpretation of non-verbal messages is influenced by culture and is especially important in business. A few examples: -Tom leaves his home at 8:30 a.m. and stops at the local Starbucks for coffee. Before Tom can speak, the person behind the counter asks, "The usual?" Tom nods yes. While he savors his coffee and reads the paper, a heavy man pushes onto the adjoining stool and overflows into Tom's space. Tom grimaces, and the man pulls himself in as much as he can. Tom has sent two messages without speaking a word. One, the man has invaded Tom's space, and two, maybe Tom has an issue with his size. Whether Tom really has an issue with his size doesn't matter, the two have already been portrayed non-verbally! -Phil is talking to Rich's wife at a party. Their conversation is entirely trivial, yet Rich observes them suspiciously. Their physical proximity and the movements of their eyes reveal that they are powerfully attracted to each other. -Jose Ybarra and Sir Edmund are at the same party and it is important for them to establish a cordial relationship for business reasons. Each is trying to be warm and friendly, yet they will part with mutual distrust and their business transaction will probably go amuck. Jose, in Latin fashion, moves closer and closer to Sir Edmund as they speak, and this movement was misinterpreted as pushiness to Sir Edmund, who keeps backing away from this intimacy. Backing away then communicates coldness to Jose. The silent languages of Latin and English cultures are more difficult to learn. In these examples, you see powerful messages communicated without words. Non-verbal communication is communication without words. You can communicate non-verbally when you gesture, smile, frown, widen your eyes, move your chair closer to someone or say nothing. These non-verbal messages interact with verbal messages, thus creating confusion. Analyze your own non-verbal communication patterns. Now that we understand how important non-verbal communication can be, let's look at how detrimental it could be to stereotype a person, company or product. According to "Bridging Differences: Effective Intergroup Communication" by William B. Gudykunst, "Stereotypes pose especially powerful barriers in intercultural communication. The reason is simple: Our stereotypes of groups to which we do not belong--for example, race, national or religious groups, gender--are likely to be more inaccurate and negative than the stereotypes of the groups to which we ourselves belong." This all changes drastically when utilizing the Internet. In using Web sites and e-mail addresses, you have no verbal or non-verbal communication--what you have is written. You have no signs of sex, age, race or religion--this does eliminate most areas of stereotyping. However, make no mistake--you are communicating non-verbal, non-written messages in your e-mail. You must learn how to communicate properly and how to express emotions non-verbally. The use of the Internet is a huge resource for marketing and communicating in many industries in addition to the mortgage industry. It can limit some risk of miscommunication. In using e-mail, it gives the sender the opportunity to correct and rewrite any portion of the message that may not be communicated well. It also gives you, the sender, the disguise as to whether you are male or female, old or young. If you should have a physical disability, it is unknown--the e-mail, as well as the Web site, is judged by looks and content. It is a virtual hidden identity, thus creating a level playing marketing field for almost everyone. This is why it is so important to capture your market with your Web site's appearance and content immediately. It is you! It may be all anyone ever sees or knows about you. You have 10 seconds or less to make your best first impression! Make it count. This is especially true of Web sites. You must reel them in and hold their attention or they will surf on by you. In writing e-mails, it is also important to create the best first impression. Turn on your spell check and grammar--don't send imperfect e-mail. We all make mistakes in typing, but the Internet allows us to appear flawless with the tools we have access to. I will share a story with you. I was dealing with some clients on a residential loan. We had some serious issues relating to their current job status. The Realtor I was working with didn't care what the issues I had were, even though they were legitimate red flags and serious problems. All she saw was her commission check going down the tubes. Well, in my haste of writing e-mails back and forth to the account representative and the attorney, who, by the way was related to the Realtor, I inadvertently sent an e-mail that I thought was going to the account representative, to the attorney, where I had written, "This Realtor is nuts! She doesn't care ... " Needless to say, she was not very happy with me and pointed out how it was an "unprofessional thing to do." I agreed wholeheartedly, and ate crow. In the end, the attorney let up a bit, knowing how strong-armed she could be. However, with a click of the mouse, we can do a lot of damage. So, I told this story only to point out the need to be careful, especially in the heat of an issue when e-mails are flying back and forth! Let's talk about the salutation line. This is where you need to capture your prospects attention or inform whomever you are writing to what your message is about. No tricks, honesty is best. It may determine if someone opens and reads or deletes your message. Be straightforward, short and intriguing. Communication skills are a must in today's market. It is conquering the art of persuasion, mystique and honesty all through written communication. Make no mistake, non-verbal communication is at play! The way you present your message, your punctuation and your language usage will all play a huge factor in how your message is interpreted. Look at the following examples: In communicating: -Confidence: Well thought out, concise and well written. "My friend just showed me a new product that I loved. It really works great." -Fear: Hee-haw around, indirect and lacking self-confidence. "My friend introduced me to a product. I'm not sure if I liked it, or if it's for me." -Excitement: Capitalization, bold print, punctuation and exclamation marks. "My friend just showed me a new product that I LOVED! It really works terrifically!" -Anger/indifference: Short, snippy lines could display indifference; bold letters and capitalization could give the appearance of anger, depending on usage. "My friend showed me a new product. I tried it, and it was REALLY, REALLY HORRIBLE!" When writing our e-mail messages, whether to a friend or a business colleague, proper communication etiquette is always important. Take the time to review your message and make sure you are sending the correct impression and message. Laura Lynn Burke is with Evergreen Park, Ill.-based American Dream Mortgage Company II. She may be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
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