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How Technology is Changing Our Manners

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A local Indianapolis e-newsletter provides insight on cultural events and unsung hotspots. One month, however, The IndySpectator included a piece on the importance of manners at work.

If you are not currently a subscriber, the newsletter is archived online. Here is a passage from the article on the topic of instant messaging:

In most high-tech offices IMing is a highly effective internal communication tool. But just because the chat window pops up for the person on the other end doesn’t mean they are always available. Starting out with a simple “Hi Jon! Do you have a moment to chat” can go a long way. And just because they don’t respond, doesn’t mean they are ignoring you; they are probably busy.

© Flickr user midiman

© Flickr user midiman

An article from South University further explores the topic of technology etiquette. We’ve included some interesting bits below.

Jodi R. R. Smith, president and owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, says anything that requires a little bit of subjective conversation, such as choosing a restaurant, requires a phone call.

She says it’s okay to send a text message that you can write very easily. For example, it’s acceptable to text a friend you’re meeting for coffee that you’ll be there in 10 minutes.

“Texting is a brief transmission of facts,” Smith says. “There’s nuance in your voice that people don’t get when you’re texting.”

The tone of voice conveys the meaning of the message, she says.

“When you lose the tone of voice you lose the context and meaning of the message,” Smith says. “If there’s even the slightest chance of being misinterpreted use the phone instead.”

Ron Moody, program director of Information Technology at South University, Montgomery, agrees that it’s much easier to misinterpret someone when reading a text-based message, rather than during a phone conversation.

“The tone of the voice can change a simple statement from light hearted to more intense,” Moody says. “In contrast, a written statement, especially using chat shortcuts, may leave the reader guessing the intent behind the message.”

The nuance Smith notes is one of the keys to focus on here. Words can be taken any number of ways. You don’t want someone to possibly assume a negative tone when that isn’t what you intended at all. Conversely, you don’t want someone to miss a level of criticism or concern that you meant to voice. While it’s true that texting can be more convenient, if it takes you multiple messages to clarify your meaning, then you’re wasting time in the long run.

There’s a key connection between good behavior and productive behavior. Etiquette is based on mutual respect. If we take time to be conscientious of others at work, we make it easier for them to be more efficient and more effective at their jobs. Likewise, that effort will reflect well on us. Colleagues will go out of their way to ensure that we can concentrate on our own tasks.

With changing technology there’s always going to be a period of time when gauging etiquette is difficult. Fortunately, we’re far enough into the age of instant messaging and coworkers being ever-available through their smart phones that there’s been plenty of time to figure out what communication works best through which medium. But the most important thing to remember is that when you’re in doubt at all, think about how you would prefer to be communicated with and take steps to ensure that clarity reigns supreme.

Good advice about workplace productivity can come from a variety of places. If you’re ready to learn more about what you can do to improve your workflow, reach out to our business process consulting firm today!

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