The use of emoticons (aka emoji) in our everyday life has increased significantly during the last decade. The growing popularity of the social media and the need to share every moment of our lives on the internet has led to the development of a variety of expressive means that can help people show their emotions. Yet, their contribution to the improvement of online communication has been overlooked by many. This is partly due to the fact that they are considered a childish and low-quality way of expressing oneself, especially in a business context. However, the truth is that emoji are part of our daily routine and they have set foot even in enterprise chat.
Taking emotion into consideration
No one can deny that ‘business talk’ is characterised by serious, professional conversations among colleagues and/or customers. However, verbal and written communication is not only about exchanging information; it also carries an emotional aspect with it.
A University of Missouri-St. Louis study tested how people perceived smiley faces in work emails versus social emails. A group of participants were sent two sets of emails — a flirtatious message and a job interview request — that had added emoticons in some of each.
The results: Smiley faces in both types of email led to recipients liking the sender more, as well as feeling the sender also liked them more. Even in the work-oriented email, which used up to four emoticons, the sender’s credibility wasn’t affected.
The study’s researchers write, “In a task orientated context, where impersonal, cold and unsociable features of computer-meditated communication are strongly encouraged in order to build credibility or professionalism, using emoticons in e-mail might create a positive expectancy violation by being friendly, emotional and personal.”
Everything we say or listen to is interpreted in accordance with the expression of our emotions at that certain point. When talking to someone, it is easy to show our feelings about what is being said, but online communication is completely dry and detached. We always try to give a complete picture of what we intend to say and, apart from the informational value of our messages, we also need to reveal the emotional hints that lie beneath.
How Emoji fit into business – do they?
In business, as in our social life, when we get in touch with people we have the urge to ‘read between the lines’ and sense the mood of our interlocutor. We take extra care to consider other people’s feelings when replying to a message. According to Mehrabian’s communication model, only 7% of a message is conveyed via the spoken word whilst 55% of the meaning is in facial expression, and, since our valuable computer screen does not let us use this ‘tool’, emoji have become so necessary and useful to us when it comes to writing an email or a text. The ‘happy face’J, the most common emoticon, can be used to thank somebody, share a greeting/ welcoming message and, generally, establish a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. On the other hand, the ‘sad face’ L could be used as an indication of unhappiness, discomfort, confusion or to accompany an apology. Apart from ‘getting the message across’, the use of emoji is also about engaging a more creative part of your brain, creating a more personal relationship with someone and- why not- bridging the language gap in a multicultural/ multilingual environment.
Use them, don’t overuse them
Using emoji in your enterprise chat is not an extreme, improper means of expressing yourself- it is a way of keeping a certain amount of playfulness and laid-back aura in your working environment, ofBusiness & Finance Articles on Business 2 Community