Tag Archives: emotions

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


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

Control Your Attitude to Improve Your Communications

Hello everyone,

Tis the season to be holly, jolly and happy, but unfortunately a few people out there have not received the message.

Yesterday I saw two guys almost get in a fist fight on the subway platform, until an undercover cop broke them up. The day before, during a big snow storm, I heard one driver yell to another to “watch out, or I will push you into the ditch!”  Even though I was not directly involved in either of these cases, I was still struck with a reaction. Actually my reaction was immediately to shake my head and wonder why people would risk hurting themselves or innocent by-standers over something as trivial as their own ego and misplaced sense of competitiveness.

Let me expand my thought process to you on this.

Do I have a healthy ego and strong sense of self? Yes, for sure. I am reasonably confident and assume I can hold my own in any situation. Do I get annoyed or offended if someone does some kind of perceived injustice to me? Yeah, sort of, but not really.

“What kind of strange answer is that?” I hear you scream. It is my reaction to competitive behaviour when I am not involved in a game or sport.

Winter storm driving is not a sport. Shopping is not a sport. Getting in line or queue for the subway train is not a sport. I think you get my point. Competition is for sports and games with rules to follow, to determine a winner. None of the above activities should apply.

I have built up a ‘filter’ so that when something happens to me or around me 99% of the time I do not over-react with emotion and ego, or with a competitive spirit. I do not see it as a contest of wills, of right and wrong, of winning and losing. I instead try my best to empathize with the other person or people, and I give them permission to be a flawed human, just like me. Through empathy I try to connect with them and calmly work at resolving the issue, one way or another.

Empathy is the key to communication. We must try to listen, read body language and see the issue from the other person’s perspective. We do not need to fight, or run away, or apologize, or get riled up with defensiveness. We instead should practice self-control and empathy first.

I know some of you understand exactly what I am saying, and I also know some of you are wondering what happy-pill I just took. 🙂   The truth is (to me anyway) that attitude, self-confidence, self-control, conflict management skills and empathy are huge parts of better communication, and that is why we need to incorporate them. When we get emotional and defensive in attitude, we cannot think as clearly as when we maintain our composure, relate to the key emotions first, then problem solve the situation to a satisfactory resolution.

On a personal note I would like to share something with you. Over 20 years of study and practice in martial arts here in Canada and abroad in Asia have taught me two important things. One: I assume I can fight, and I will always hope to be able to hold my own.  Two: I hate to fight, and will do everything I can to avoid it.

Just because I can do something, does not mean that I should do that thing.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you, wherever you are. Enjoy your family time and control your positive attitude, no matter what happens to you or around you.

That will serve you as a gift that keeps on giving, throughout your life, and also for the others around you.

All the best,


Use EFT for Fear of Public Speaking, etc.

Have you heard of EFT? Emotional Freedom Techniques. This is a non-invasive form of self-therapy to activate pressure points (chi or qi points in Asian medicine) that hold negative emotional build-up and disrupt your body’s natural energy flow. The theory is that if you can release these negative emotions or scars from previous times, you will be in better health, and manage phobias better too.
Why believe me? Don’t. Research it yourself and make your own decision. It is the same principle as accu-pressure. Here is the website: http://www.emofree.com
You can also find videos on Youtube if you search ‘EFT’.

What do I think?  I know a few people who are trying this and they say it is very helpful for insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder. I used it to relieve back pain and laziness. I used it on a couple of my clients too. One person felt better about her back pain. Another reduced her anxiety over her upcoming public speaking at work. She went from an 8/10 fear to a 5/10 in 2 minutes.

I am interested in EFT, although I am not sure I believe all the testimonials. Some people claim to rid themselves of disease, help babies who are teething, and even unclog toilets! (Yuck!)
For now I am going to continue to explore it, research it, and use it on myself and clients. I like market research. Then I may decide to get officially certified in Advanced EFT techniques. Check out their website for a free video, manual, newsletter, etc. www.emofree.com.
By the way I am not affiliated with them and receive no kickbacks. I just think this could be really useful for public speaking and presentations, and overall improvement in our emotional health.

Improve your body language, improve your confidence!

Improve your body language, improve your confidence!

The way that you move your body and walk has an enormous effect on the way that you feel and your confidence levels.

Let’s start with an exercise.
Imagine there are two people standing in front of you – one with “negative body language” and one with “positive body language”.

I’d now like you to write down what you are observing with each of these people.


Positive Body Lang.

Negative Body Lang.

How are they standing?


Where are their eyes looking?


Where have they got their head?


How are they talking?



How are they moving?




You know, how you feel at any moment in time is linked to what is going on in your head and how you are moving your body. The way that you move sends subconscious messages to your mind and this either helps or hinders the way that you feel.

Emotion is created by motion. If you sit still for a long period of time your natural energy levels automatically lower. And what happens when you get up, walk around and return to your seat? Yes, you have more energy and you’re given a boost. I can’t stress how important it is to move and act confidently and positively.

You will give off all the right vibes to everyone around you and it will make them think that you are confident even if you’re not feeling it inside.

Yes, that’s right. Even if you’re not feeling confident, act as though you are.

So, how do you do this?

Well, controlled and with a purpose. Don’t saunter along aimlessly. Walk like you know exactly where you’re going and keep your head up, chin level. Gesture with your hands as you talk, it will create motion and you know what that leads to – EMOTION!

The right gestures also have a major impact on building rapport.  Smooth, engaging gestures work best, especially those that match and complement your words and speech patterns. And don’t forget to smile!

Think for a moment about your confidence role model.

One thing that he/she and confident people in general have in common is that they all probably smile a lot and are happier than their negative counterparts. It may sound silly, but there is a lot of power associated with a smile. So what I would like you to do is to start smiling more often.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to walk around with a silly grin on your face all of the time.

But smile as you walk down the street, when you talk to someone, even when you look in the mirror at yourself. You will be surprised at how better you will feel for it, and it will project a positive image to all others – one that will attract opportunities and people.

Remember that confident people are happy people and negative people are not.
Happy people are also seen as more attractive than unhappy and sad people so that is an added bonus!

So in closing, be aware that your body movements can and will affect how you feel and how others perceive you, and also remember that you can proactively help to project a confident image with some simple, minor adjustments any time of the day.