You may think of business communication as emotionless. You’re just conveying facts, solving problems, and making good decisions, right?
On closer look, emotion doesn’t just help you communicate effectively -- conveying a little excitement, happiness, frustration, or doubt can make you a better businessperson.
Expressing appropriate emotion in your business communications helps you to:
- Accurately convey your meaning
- Build relationships with clients and customers
- Portray a positive, engaged brand image
- Illicit emotional responses from your contacts
- Overcome challenges and solve problems
- Land sales and close deals
Here’s how to put a little emotion into your business communications.
Give your messages some tone
Email and texts are fundamentally toneless. Unlike in-person meetings and phone calls, your recipient cannot look at your face, assess your body language, or hear the tone of your voice to get insight into how you are feeling. And often, without a proper understanding of tone, it’s hard to fully understand meaning.
Look at these two texts:
- I don’t know what document you’re referring to. I need to know before I can make any changes.
- I’m not sure which article you mean -- just let me know and I’ll make those changes ASAP.
In the first text, the writer’s tone may be perceived as annoyed, cold, or even reluctant to engage in the work that needs to be done. The second message contains the same ideas, but the tone is friendly and action-oriented.
Choose your words wisely
One surefire way to clarify tone is to choose your words carefully. For example, each of these words means the same thing but comes with a different set of associations:
These two sentences convey different emotions:
- “I know you’re overworked -- I’d love to chat with you for five minutes next week.”
- “I know you’re busy -- I’d love to chat with you for five minutes next week.”
Which sentence will get you a better response? “Overworked” sounds like a problem, and it has more negative connotations than “busy.” Chances are, telling someone they are overworked might be off-putting. Acknowledging that someone is busy is generally neutral or positive.
Choose words that express some emotion. Look at the difference in these two text messages to a potential client:
Hi, just confirming that we’re meeting on Friday. Be sure to have any questions about our product ready for me to answer. Thanks, Joel
Hi, I’m really looking forward to meeting you on Friday! Feel free to send along any questions you have beforehand -- I’m happy to answer anything you send my way. Thanks, Joel
In his second message, Joel uses words that evoke emotion:
He says he’s “looking forward to meeting you” to express excitement. In the first message, he simply stated that the meeting was occurring.
He says “Feel free to send along any questions . . . ” This is an invitation that conveys openness. In the first message, he phrased this as a demand by saying, “Be sure to . . .”
He says, “I’m happy to answer . . .” This conveys happiness! And it creates a very positive tone. In the first message, he simply said that he would answer questions.
A (tiny) picture saves you 1000 words
With the popularity of rapid business communication tools like Slack and TextUs, emojis have become the mode for business communication. Whether it’s a simple smile, a thumbs up, or raising the roof, emojis are a kind of language of their own.
Emojis can punctuate your words to soften messages, convey tones, indicate everything is a-ok, or let a business partner knows you’re joking. They’re a friendly way to communicate and make you more accessible to your clients. And they show there is a lighter side to the way you do business.
So, emoji away! But, as with everything in business communication, context is everything. You want to make sure you are using your emojis sparingly, appropriately, and meaningfully.
Do use emojis to . . .
- Smile (😃😊🙂) to convey friendliness, agreement, or simply that you’re smiling!
- Laugh (😅😄) at a joke or funny situation
- Cheer along successes (👏)
- Express approval (👍)
- Celebrate (🙌) happy events
- Convey other happy, excited, positive emotions to your contacts
- Show small disappointments (😔)
- Commiserate over minor setbacks (😕)
- Communicate other less positive emotions in sympathy or clarification
Don’t use emojis . . .
- In response to major, serious events.
- After every sentence. Don’t overload your messages with emojis. Use them intentionally and sparingly or they begin to lose meaning.
- Randomly, without a clear, easily decipherable purpose. Stick to the emojis that are commonly recognizable and that most people understand. For example, not everyone knows that 💅 can be used to mean “fancy.”
Avoid negative emotions
Look out for blame, defensiveness, defeatism, and other negative emotions. Always look for the positive aspects of a situation and focus on what steps might be taken next. Convey the bright side of difficult situations with appropriate word choice.
It’s easy to write a message quickly without realizing an error in tone, an unfortunate word choice, or a phrase or an idea that’s open to misinterpretation. Before you send out messages, be sure to read them over. Double check, not just for spelling and grammar errors, but for missteps in tone:
Have you used a word or phrase with negative connotations?
- For example, did you say “We have a problem,” when “This is a challenge for us,” might open up more room for discussion and connection?
- For example, replacing “This is a great opportunity” with “We’re thrilled about this opportunity” might generate more excitement and invite a contact to be excited with you.
- The emotional tone you convey should be in line with what you and your organization value.
- If your organization is people-first, for example, focus on words that convey caring, interest, and warmth.
- If your organization is primarily solution-focused, make sure you pick words that convey confidence, decisiveness, and strength.
Are you working too quickly on faster forms of communication like Slack or text messaging? Slow down! Taking a second to check things over, even in rapid communication, can prevent gaffes and communication breakdowns.
There you have it -- our tips on putting some emotion into your business emails and texts. Looking for more on the softer side of business communication? Check out our blog on making business texts personal.