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.
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
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
-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
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
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
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
-Confidence: Well thought out, concise and well written.
"My friend just showed me a new product that I loved. It really
-Fear: Hee-haw around, indirect and lacking
"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
"My friend just showed me a new product that I LOVED! It really
-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,
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]