|There are an extraordinary number of articles on digital etiquette, written by everyone from Emily Post to Bill Gates. In addition the topic is huge, encompassing email, cell phones, voice mail, blogs, websites and social media. Digital communication and the internet have taken up so many of our waking hours, that any article on etiquette that doesn’t mention digital manners and protocol would be remiss. What I’d like to do in this article is describe the digital etiquette practices that I follow, in the hopes that you’ll find them helpful and relevant.
1. Respond in kind. I generally answer an email with an email, a text with a text, and a voice mail with a phone call. if you are initiating the conversation it’s considered good manners to ask the other person how they like to be contacted. Additionally, I attempt to match the tone of my response to the original message. Often you can sense if a person likes to communicate in a more formal, direct, flowery or casual manner, and can adjust your response accordingly.
2. Priority rules. Personally I am not a fan of multitasking; for me it just leads to forgetfullness or mistakes. But as there are so often multiple demands on our attention we must decide how to allocate this scarce resource. The person you are face to face with, the person you were communicating with first, or the person you have an appointment with all take priority over a competing dialogue. When faced with an in-person conversation vs. a phone appointment you need to use the rules of introduction to determine who has priority. Client comes first, then boss, then colleague, then friend or family member.
3. Be nice (or remain silent). It’s okay to be witty, edgy, clever and funny, but being mean or insulting on social media or in an email or text will often backfire. There is the unforgettable story of Justine Sacco, whose tweet sent before she boarded a plane for South Africa, trended on twitter (in a bad way), caused her to get fired, and dumped by her friends, all before she landed. Unpleasant conversations are best done in person or directly on the phone.
4. Remain Consistent; with your personality, your brand, and the way you normally speak. We hear the term brand used so often that it’s easy to dismiss this suggestion. But the point is that we should be authentic and true to ourselves in all communication. Others should be able to read your emails or other messages and hear your voice speaking the words.
5. Reply quickly, and proofread. The general rule is to answer emails within two hours, or the most a day, and voice mails within a day. Text messages should be answered when you read them. Even if you are in a rush, proofreading will save you time by avoiding errors and miscommunication.