After studying this unit, you will be able to use rapid electronic communication channels such as texting and instant messaging in a professional manner.
Whatever digital device you use, written communication in the form of Short Message Service (SMS), or texting, has been a convenient and popular way to connect since the 1990s. Instant messaging (IMing) apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger have increased the options people have to send and respond to brief written messages in real time when talking on the phone would otherwise be inconvenient. In business, texting and IMing are especially advantageous for hashing out details precisely in writing so that they can be referred to later. Texting and IMing are not useful for long or complicated messages but are great for connecting while on the go. However, consider your audience and company by choosing words, terms, or abbreviations that will deliver your message most effectively using these communication tools.
Tips for Effective Business Texting:
- Know your recipient; “? % dsct” may be an understandable way to ask a close associate what the proper discount is to offer a certain customer, but if you are texting or IMing your boss, it might be wiser to write, “what % discount does Murray get on $1K order?”
- Anticipate unintentional misinterpretation. Texting often uses symbols and codes to represent thoughts, ideas, and emotions. Given the complexity of communication, and the useful but limited tool of texting, be aware of its limitation and prevent misinterpretation with brief and clear messages.
- Contacting someone too frequently can border on harassment. Texting is a tool. Use it when appropriate but don’t abuse it.
- Unplug yourself once in a while. Do you feel constantly connected? Do you feel lost or “out of it” if you don’t have your cell phone and cannot connect to people, even for fifteen minutes? Sometimes being unavailable for a time can be healthy—everything in moderation, including texting.
- Don’t text and drive. Research shows that the likelihood of an accident increases dramatically if the driver is texting behind the wheel (Houston Chronicle, 2009). Being in an accident while conducting company business would reflect poorly on your judgment as well as on your employer (Business Communication for Success, 2015).
Professionalize your use of rapid electronic communication such as texting and instant messaging so that you can assume a competitive advantage throughout your careers.
1. Write out your answers to the following questions:
i. How old were you when you got your first mobile phone?
ii. When did you send your first text?
iii. How many texts do you send per day, on average, now?
iv. How many times do you speak on the phone with the same device, on average, throughout your day? If you call (or receive calls) far less than text, why do you think that is?
v. Is the first thing you look at when you wake up in the morning your smartphone notifications, and are they the last thing you look at before you go to sleep at night? If so, why? If not, why do you think it is for so many people?
vi. Do you think it’s fair to say that your smartphone use can be characterized as an addiction? If so, how is it impeding you from living a more healthy and fulfilling life? Is there anything you are prepared to do about it? If not, do you see it as a problem for people around you? Do you challenge them on it? Do you find it a challenge to discipline yourself to prevent it from being an addiction in your case?
2. Identify three ways that you must change your texting and IM behaviour in professional—rather than purely social—contexts.