Monday, March 5, 2012

Getting to know you - match my words

Image by Janoon028
More and more we are meeting people online. An email from a supplier, a question on a business wiki from a potential customer or job application email from a potential new employee. While we eventually want to create effective long lasting relationships - the first step is the initial 'getting to know you': That next step after the first impression.

So how do we start to build effective relationships if our interactions are limited to being computer-mediated?

We can start with plain old good etiquette - or netiquette as it is known in the cyber world. The basics of respect for others demonstrated in how you interact with one another is always a good start.  Returning emails within a decent time (even if only to say you received it and will get back to them at a later date) is always a good start.

We can also look at language matching. When we converse with others we take hints about the type, speed and formality of the language we use to chat.  We can do the same online. How formal, how often, which communication tool to use (if they always text you and you always email them back you have a mismatch in preferred mechanism).  If you want to have a look at how language matching can be analysed you might want to visit this research site for a go.

When we match language we display empathy.  In a face-to-face conversation a friend might tell us they are feeling a bit flat ... we will match that when we reply empathetically "So you're feeling down today ....?"  (Followed by listening of course).  The same can be done online. At the beginning of an email when a customer says they haven't got back to you because they "have had new staff starting"  - take this as an opportunity to ask about their recent expansion or turn over.  Or perhaps share that you understand how time consuming training new staff can be. See the sharing and the language they use to open the relationship. In the same way you would at a work meeting.  Know the boundaries, but take the hint. As time goes by you will create different online working relationships with individuals. Some chatty and informal - some straight to the point and business like even after three years.

So what might you match:
*Tone (See Text Tone)
*Formailty or casualness of language
*Use of acronyms and emoticons
*Amount of non task conversation included
* Frequency (See What Frequency Do You Function On?)
*Language complexity - especially if you are corresopnding with people from outside your field of expertise or for whom English is not their first language.
* Length of correspondence (See the Art of Brevity)

So next time you meet someone on line take time to  read the language of their message along with the frequency and speed of reply.  Take clues from them about the relationship they want, and perhaps build one of those really effective business relationships - albeit totally on line.
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