Saturday, February 9, 2013

Telephone and Email Etiquette

With the introduction of so much new technology over the past two decades comes a whole new set of etiquette guidelines. Thankfully in the case of both telephone calls and emails, the etiquette is still based on age-old traditional guidelines. The important point to remember in either of these forms of communication is the need to connect with other people. Effective communication can only happen if both parties understand one another clearly.

When using a cellphone, smartphone, or the good old Princess push-button the same rules apply.

1.     Answer the phone with a smile on your face.
2.     If on a business call, be sure you are dressed appropriately – yes, as though you were standing face-to-face. It helps get you in the right frame of mind.
3.     If possible stand, or at the very least sit up when speaking on the phone. This adds to a tone of confidence.
4.     Be mindful of the tone you use in delivering your words. Without the benefit of seeing one’s facial expressions and body language, tone plays a much larger part in the message.
5.     Use the other person’s name in a sentence to draw special emphasis to your point. Resist raising your voice.
6.     If you are phoning to have a long unscheduled conversation, be sure to show respect for the other person’s time by asking if this is a convenient time for a chat. If it is, wonderful; if it isn’t, reschedule. My advice is to always schedule important telephone calls.
7.     Resist making contact by telephone when in a highly charged emotional state, unless of course you are facing an emergency or deep grief. Personal calls are a time for expressing emotions; with business calls we should keep facts and feelings clearly separated and wait until we are calmer before we dial the number.
8.     When leaving a message, be sure to speak slowly, spelling your name clearly if necessary. Leave the date and time of your call and the purpose of your call. If you request a call back, leave a time when it will be convenient for you to take a return call.
9.     Maintain a civil level of discussion and do not hang up the phone without saying goodbye. Having mutual compassion for one another and for one’s self helps avoid bullying tactics during any connection.
10.  Wipe the telephone receiver or hand held device with an antibacterial agent.

When communicating via email, treat all correspondence as if you were writing a letter to be sent in the mail. The only difference is the length of time for delivery. 

Important points to remember are:
1.     For business correspondence, be sure to use a proper header – as would appear on formal letterhead.
2.     Be sure the salutations are appropriate. Avoid overfamiliarity in business communiqu├ęs.
3.     Spelling mistakes are avoidable and unforgivable. Don’t trust ‘spellcheck’!
4.     Ditto grammar mistakes. If you are weak in this area, find someone who knows proper usage and have him or her proofread every letter you plan to send.  
5.     The tone of your message should be appropriate. Remember that not only can the recipient not see your facial expression or body language; they cannot hear your voice inflections. Read your message out loud before hitting the ‘send’ button.
6.     There is no recalling an email once it is sent. None whatsoever!
7.     Answer all emails within 24 hours, when possible.
8.     If you receive correspondence via email, the sender is expecting a reply via email, unless stated otherwise in the message.
9.     It is acceptable to follow up on an email you suspect may have gone astray – in a junk or spam file by mistake. Wait 24 hours for such a follow-up.
10. If mailing to more than one person, double check your cc and bcc windows and avoid sharing others’ email addresses in error – very bad form!

These guidelines in no way cover every situation, but they are a good place to start. Making connections with others is a human need we all have. Let’s make sure the message we send is received with the understanding we intended. This is a good place to begin.