Category Archives: Professional Communications

Professional office and other business communication strategies

Should Women Use Smiley Faces in Business Communications?

Recently I was contacted by a writer for the business magazine “The Virago.”  She was writing an article about women’s business communication and how so many women fear appearing “too aggressive” in their communication. Many women she talked to apparently felt like they had to add a bunch of smiley faces to their emails in order to avoid the aggressive stereotype and be listened to.

She wanted to talk to me about confident communication for women that will be listened to, and getting over the fear of being “too angry.”  Here are her questions, my original answers, and her final article posted online that also includes other expert opinions. Enjoy!

Q1: In your experience/opinion do both men and women use the smiley face emoji in business emails? Do both genders use them with the same frequency?
A: In my experience not many people use the smiley face emoji in business emails, but they are gaining acceptance. The fact that we have adopted the Japanese term ‘emoji’ and people understand what it means is a testament to that. They were frowned upon (no pun intended) up until very recently. I used to teach people not to use emoticons in business writing right up until just a few years ago. These days they are acceptable if they are familiar (like a smiley face) and add insight to the sentences. I would say women use them a little more frequently than men, but I personally use them often and find them a valuable communication tool.

Q2: Is use of the smiley face emoji effective in emails or does it damage the reputation of the user?

A: It’s often hard for people to understand the exact intended meaning of just written or typed words, and that is why we have more miscommunication with writing compared to phone calls or face-to-face discussions. An emoji can be very useful to add clarity to a comment, so the reader understands that something was a joke or a playful sentence and not a sarcastic one or aggressive order. Here’s an illustration:

“Get back to work!”

“Get back to work!” 🙂

The first phrase may have been sent as a playful jab or joke, but how could we know for sure? It may accidentally hurt feelings or cause tension. In the second example, it’s clear we are teasing.

Regarding our reputation – it can be damaged if people in business think we are not serious of course. We don’t want to overuse the emoji or use obscure ones, and we do want to consider the familiarity of the reader as well. People that know us can ‘hear’ our voice when they read our emails, and in this case the emoji adds tone and should not take away from our reputation. Like everything in life, moderation is the key.

Another example: recently I wanted to give my receptionist a little “trouble” for leaving a small meeting room messy that I needed to use with a client. I walked into the room and saw the mess, took a photo of it, and got down to coaching. I emailed the photo to my receptionist and typed some statement to do with the ‘surprise’ and instructions to please check more thoroughly next time, but ended it with a smiley face emoji. J She wrote back an apology and a joke of some kind with a smiley face too. When I saw her in person next time there was zero tension. The smiley faces allowed each of us to know that the point was taken but there were no bruised feelings over it. Message received, emotions saved!

Q3: Does the gender of the user have any bearing on how an email’s reader reacts to smiley emoji use (or not using smileys)?

A: An emoji is a softener – it softens or lightens the tone of the phrase or sentence. Some people may associate that as more feminine or, like me, they may associate that with empathy and taking steps to have their message understood clearly, and without misunderstanding.

Q4: What is a clear and confident way for a woman to give those she supervises instructions or discuss a difficult subject with them over email without using the smiley face emoji? Are there particular words or phrases that are effective?

A: In general we should avoid discussing difficult subjects over email! That’s the best piece of advice I can give. It’s too easy to be misunderstood when emotions are high. It’s best to use email to arrange a face-to-face or phone meeting to discuss the situation. Other than that, it’s important for people to take emotions out of business reports, feedback or evaluations. Stick to the facts and avoid judgmental words like: always, never, good, bad, smart, lazy etc. As a manager you should focus your communications on dealing with behaviour, not the personality. Don’t “accidentally on purpose” make it personal when it doesn’t have to be.

Ric Phillips, Communication Coach

www.CommunicationCoach.ca

@CommCoach (Twitter)
Final Virago Article:  http://thevirago.ca/2017/02/24/emoticon-sending-wrong-message/

What Does Your Handshake Say? Learn These Tips

Balanced Counter Shake

Everyone is talking about President Trump’s power handshakes, and today everyone is proud of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for not allowing Trump to bully-handshake him at their White house meeting yesterday.  I was contacted yesterday myself by Maclean’s Magazine for an interview on my thoughts on their non-verbal communication. That short video can be seen here, but be advised the interview was done before the video was made, so my comments do not necessarily match up with the images shown.

Are handshakes such a big deal?  Well, yes, they are.  They show non-verbal communication intentions on dominance, control, balance and openness. They are worthy of a bit of study, and I will give some tips on what to do or not do when shaking hands, particularly at a political or business function.

To start, ‘medium’ is the rule to remember. Walk at a medium pace, speak with medium voice/volume, gesture and shake hands with medium speed. This shows you are calm and in control of yourself.

After a calm approach, you should make sure you are engaged in eye contact and then smile as you extend your hand. Maintain good posture as you approach and extend the hand. Don’t bend at the waist (unless in Asia or with Asian delegates) and don’t over-extend your arm so you appear too eager and/or off-balance. Introduce yourself (e.g. Hello – I’m Ric. Nice to meet you!) and connect hands (not fingers) evenly, palm to palm. Be ‘firm but fair’ to the other people in your networking circles! Never crush a hand and never offer a seemingly ‘broken wrist’ or ‘just-fingers’ weak handshake. Both hands should be level – do not twist the hands to either extreme side, if possible. I am not a fan of twisting someone’s hand so that my palm is up and they have ‘the upper hand’ now, or vice versa. Let’s start off on equal footing, shall we?

Pump your hands 2-4 times, gently and evenly, and repeat the person’s name after they introduce themselves to help you retain that new information if necessary.  There is usually no need for extra tactics, like using your free hand to clasp the hands while shaking (the double) or patting the shoulder of the person you are engaging (the pat-down). In the North American culture these extras are not necessary, but if someone does that to you, it’s almost natural to return the favour, to even the score. Go ahead and do unto others as they do unto you.

Dominant people may want you to enter a room first and will gesture to let you go first, and may even lightly touch/pat your back, as a ‘guide’ through the doorway.  It looks polite (and it technically is) but it also is another example of them ‘steering’ you somewhere and being in control because they can see you the whole time, and you need to ‘trust’ them when they’re behind you.  In evolutionary terms, you never wanted a potential predator or someone you didn’t know/trust to be behind you where you’re vulnerable to blind attack.

Regardless of what is in their mind or their style of greeting, you should always aim for a balanced and equal meet to start the relationship on the right foot. Just don’t be surprised if others have favourite tactics they wish to use on you.  Whether it is at a formal business meeting or at a relaxed social outing, learning how to hand shake with balance and confidence, and learning how to match the other person’s style is all good practice!  Go ahead – put your best hand forward!  🙂

 

My TED Talk: The Long Life of First Impressions

The importance of interpersonal skills in today’s tech-world cannot be underrated or undervalued, and that’s why I focused my recent TED Talk on them.  Please take a moment to view and learn about “The Long Life of First Impressions”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuG-BHquAHU 
If you like it, please ‘like’ it and share to your social networks, or directly on YouTube. Let’s spread the idea!  Much appreciated!

Become a Certified 3V Communication Coach

stamp-clipart-panda-free-clipart-images-0qqli2-clipartAre you interested in becoming a Communication Coach?

Coaching in general is an exploding industry, and the interest in communication coaching itself has tripled in the last few years. There are organizations that can certify you as a life coach, NLP coach, business coach etc. but currently there are no organizations that can certify you as a communication coach, except the one that started it – 3V Communications.  If you think you have the background and interest in being certified as a communication coach by 3V Communications, we do provide that service.

You will need to train under our system, learn our courses and philosophies etc. and be assessed.  At the end of training you will be certified and have a ton of material and knowledge that you can use to either work with us or completely independent of us.  The choice is yours.

What is a Communication Coach?

There are different definitions according to different coaching organizations, independent coaches and their backgrounds. Some coaches focus on writing, or public speaking, or corporate training, etc. Some attempt to do all. At the end of training you can decide how general or specific you want to be when advertising services. It is always best to specialize on the area or a few areas that you excel in.

Our Philosophy:

We believe in the “hybrid coaching”™ model. It combines current, effective coaching models, self-discovery and core competencies taken from Life and Business coaching, and we also incorporate more traditional coaching and training methodology to provide information and instruction as well. Our overall philosophy is to improve communications on a holistic, complete level, examining the verbal, the vocal and the visual aspects of communication.

3 choices for obtaining certification:

A)  100% at-home self-study course

B)  Study for your certification with the constant support of a Mentor Coach

C)  2-day, in-person training plus 6 follow up coaching hours and 1-year email support with a 3V Mentor Coach to ensure you get up and running successfully

3V Communications Ltd. is an international training company recognized today as one of the leading authorities on Communication Coaching.

3V approved courses have met the strict guidelines for effective coach training, business development, ethics, and professional conduct as per the NCCA – the National Communication Coaching Association of Canada, and as such this 3V Communication Coach certification course is fully accredited by the NCCA.

If interested kindly contact 3V Communications for more information on curriculum cost, benefits of certification and benefits of NCCA designation.

5 Tips for Finding a New (Communication) Coach

Agreeing on a Coaching Plan

Agreeing on a Coaching Plan

It can be difficult to find the perfect coach for you when you’ve never done it before.  There are many types of coaches, with various backgrounds and different areas of specialization.  Here are some quick tips to get you started on the right foot:

1 – self-assess your needs first.  Be as specific as possible on current challenges, and goals you need to accomplish in order to feel improvement was made.  Don’t just rely on a company’s assessment tools.  They may not have them, or they may be general.  Compare your assessment with theirs!

2 – Google search for a coach or training company using the specific area targeted for improvement, like ‘communication coach’, ‘presentation coach’, ‘executive management coach’, ‘confidence coach’ etc.  See what comes up on the first page and then explore their sites/profiles/articles.  Go deep, beyond the company/coach website.  This is important.

3 – You can choose a company that has a good reputation for providing training but ultimately you will still need to choose an individual coach.  When the company recommends a certain coach for your program, ask for a bio document or their LinkedIn profile so you can see what type of person they are recommending for you.  Next arrange a free consultation with the coach (20 minute phone/Skype call or a longer in-person meeting) to see if there is a ‘fit’ in both comfort and strategy to solve your challenges.

4 – Ensure you and the coach/coaching company have agreed on the top priorities to focus the coaching on, and then get it in writing.  Companies should have some kind of proposal or coaching agreement they can send to you that outlines the coaching focus, program/curriculum specifics, price, location and other policies to be aware of.

5 – Give it a go!  A coach is a partner, not a teacher.  They will help you achieve your goals if you put in equal effort.  If for some reason the coaching is not working out, check your coaching agreement to see if you can modify the program or even switch coaches.  After all, if you are not energized and happy, it will be very difficult to face your challenges and move beyond them.
Good luck!

Why the Change in Tone from Speaking to Writing?

Think before you type...

Think before you type…

Do you ever notice how many people in positions of leadership in the business world can be friendly and casual in person, yet when they email or post a memo to staff they adopt a very formal, cold tone? Isn’t that a bit odd and counter-productive to all the rapport building previously done to win your confidence and loyalty?

For staff it can be akin to dealing with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One minute you feel comfortable chatting with your boss or manager, and then next, you feel you are being scolded or talked down to through his/her writing. Here are the common traits of this problem:

1 – the manager adopts on reflex a “boss’s tone” without realizing it, often because it’s the way it’s been done at the workplace before (particular office culture)

2 – the manager feels a serious, formal tone sounds ‘professional’

3 – the manager hopes the formal, professional tone encourages staff to take him/her (more) seriously

4 – the memo has long business English words and phrases that sound ‘intelligent’

5 – the memo is filled with instructions, demands and orders, not inquiries, questions or polls

6 – using CAPS unnecessarily

It doesn’t have to be that way. I encourage members of management and team leaders to consider having a consistent message with their staff, customers, tenants, vendors etc. Of course writing still must avoid street slang, but it can certainly get its message across while being positive in tone and engaging, and still maintain professionalism. The key communication tip I’m suggesting is to use a consistent, conversational tone that still deals with the key issue or topic, but does not create distance.

Here are some quick examples of suggested changes:

To all Staff:

Please be advised that you will NO LONGER be able to use the common area for eating lunch. Please eat your food in the designated lunchrooms only.

Management

Change to…

Hi everyone,

Just a quick note to ask you to please eat your food in the lunchrooms only, and not in the common area. We want to keep that food-free as much as possible.

Thanks!

Mr. Smith / Team ABC Co.

 

Dear Valued Customer;

Our records indicate that you have not paid your last invoice. Please remit payment within the next 5 days to avoid late fees and potential legal action, as per the customer agreement.

Regards,

Mrs. Doe, ABC Bank Manager

Change to…

Dear Mrs. Smith,

We are reaching out to you as we have not received payment from the last issued invoice. If you have paid it already, please accept our thanks. If you have forgotten about it, please send us the payment as soon as you can. If there is a concern with your invoice please call us immediately so we can work with you to sort it out. We would like to help you avoid any late fees associated with this payment.

Best regards,

Mrs. Doe, ABC Bank Manager

 

NO food or drink beyond this point!

Change to…

Please do not bring food or drink beyond this point. Thank you!

It’s not the words that I/you choose as much as it’s the emotional vibe or feeling associated with the note. We can absolutely be a respected manager or boss and still use an approachable, casual and positive tone in our emails and memos. We want to be consistent in person and in writing, and we want to continue to build rapport with our staff and customers. Give it a try – you will be happy you did.  In all honesty, wouldn’t you rather work for or with a Dr. Jekyll instead of a Mr. Hyde?

Threat vs. Collaboration: How Do You See Others?

cautionWe are hard-wired to default to the negative, whenever not enough positive information is available about a person or situation. In other words, we do not automatically trust in the good of people or the world, unless we have sufficient reason, past experience or ‘proof’ to do so. We cautiously default to the negative to prepare for anything bad, just in case.

A few weeks ago I received an aggressive email from some lady far away, demanding that I remove a blog post that contained her original article. It was from at least two years ago, and it was for all intents and purposes, forgotten, and buried among my other posts. So why was she upset?

When I had copied the article to my blog, I also included the hyperlink to the original place where I had discovered the excellent article. I always cite the author and original website properly, because I know exactly what it feels like to see your articles posted on someone else’s blog or website, and not have proper credit given. I get it. To us authors, coaches and trainers, we spend a lot of time building ‘street cred’ on the internet to be recognized hopefully as a thought leader. It is our intention that our pieces of writing get shared and circulated, but we hope that sharing will lead people back to our site, and to our product and service line.

In this case the hyperlink now led to nowhere, as the hosting site where I originally found the article had shifted, been shut down or had been sold. The point is, the hyperlink I had placed in good faith years ago now did not lead to proper accreditation and this lady was upset that her work looked too much like it was ‘my’ work. I can understand her wanting to rectify this situation.

She came at me guns blazing, defending her work, threatening serious action if the article that I ‘stole’ was not taken down, or a new link to her new site was not put in place. I was a bad guy I guess in her eyes, and she had me in her cross-hairs.

She didn’t know me, had no proof of my innocence, and therefore defaulted to the negative. I must be a guy trying to pass off her hard work as my own, and leverage her article to gain my own new clients. I understand this from a psychological and evolutionary point of view. It’s a natural instinct to protect yourself and your stuff. What I want to preach today is to learn to recognize that evolutionary auto-warning system, shut it off, and think before you respond.

It would have been much better in my opinion if she would have approached me (or any other author in a similar situation) as a potential collaborator, not a competitor. After all we are obviously in the same market space.  Here’s my suggested email:

Dear Ric,

I noticed you have published my article titled “ABC Great Article” in your blog post (dated month day year). First of all thank you for sharing my work. It is much appreciated. I noticed that you included a link to the site where you found the article but you probably had no way of knowing that the site has changed owners/function and so the link is unfortunately dead now. I was hoping you could simply exchange Link A with this new Link B in your blog post, so that readers of your blog may follow the article back to me with no problem. Alternatively you may choose to remove the post completely, but I hope you choose to keep it up on your blog.

Thank you so much for your time and once again thank you for sharing my article with your readers. Perhaps I could post one of your articles on my blog for our readers, since we share a common target market?

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Sincerely,

Mrs. J. Smith

Had I received an email similar to the above, I would not only have changed the link immediately, but would have personally responded to the email and began to find out which of my articles would best suit her blog. It could have been the beginning of years of collaboration between colleagues.

Instead, what I did was delete the article immediately and not respond at all to the email. I won’t even cite it here in this blog post. It is dead to me.  Which response do you think is better for her business?

I wish her the best and hold no grudge at all.  I just thought it would make an interesting topic for a blog post.  Please feel free to share this post, and I trust you will properly cite it.  😉