As the 21st century gathers momentum, it is bringing with it the increased expectation that we will find rapid answers to our questions – at home and in the workplace. The internet has opened up a whole new medium for researching, gathering, sharing and receiving knowledge very quickly. This is backed up by more and more options when it comes to communicating with our peers: telephony (in particular, mobile phones); emails; text messages; video calls and instant messaging; to name a few.
When used in the right way, the increased ability to communicate clearly and quickly can only be a good thing. However, what happens when good manners and sensible protocols are discarded; when communication becomes a distraction to the task in hand? Instant messaging is perhaps the best example of this very real danger.
Designed to enable a quick exchange of dialogue between two or more participants, it can be a great tool to obtain a fast response to an urgent query. All too often though, instant messaging can be a devil in disguise as it encourages bad grammar and poor meeting etiquette. It can also be the source of bad manners and that is never a good thing in business.
Bad Grammar – by its very nature, instant messaging encourages us to use poorly constructed sentences; words are often also abbreviated or written phonetically in a kind of ‘text talk’. This can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. In extreme cases, it can lead to participants completely misunderstanding each other – without even realising it. If you are familiar with the abbreviated form, LOL might be interpreted as ‘Laugh Out Load’ but what if the recipient is only vaguely familiar with this form of communication and interprets it as ‘Lots Of Love’?
Poor Meeting Etiquette – have you even been in a meeting with someone whose attention is suddenly distracted by an instant message which they then proceed to answer, leaving you hanging mid-sentence? This sort of action is a distraction to everyone in the meeting and can cause you to lose valuable time while the message recipient responds to their message and then takes time to re-engage with your own discussion which was already in hand. The same principle applies if you are having a one-to-one conversation with someone.
Bad Manners – this really encompasses both of the above and potentially more besides! Needless to say, there is no place for bad manners in good business.
BIG’s Conclusion: When it is used correctly, instant messaging can be a fantastic tool that can be used to improve business communication. But it is all too easy for us to slip into bad habits; more often than not we become the perpetrators of bad actions without even realising it. This leads me to conclude that we must all be vigilant so as to avoid falling into the trap of poor communication. So, take time to reflect on your own actions and circumstances: is instant messaging a friend or a foe in your life and in your business?