Business Communication in the Texting Age

It’s no great surprise that texting is being discussed in the business world: as the young mature, they bring their habits to the working world. A recent extremely condescending article “E-mail Gets and Instant Makeover” in the New York Times bemoans the trend of the younger generation towards faster modes of communication and hints that today’s teenagers and early-20s young adults will have a rough wake-up call when forced to communicate with members of the older generation who are less comfortable with instant communication.

In fact, I think that business culture is quickly adapting to the possibilities offered by instantaneous communication, and that many executives—even the “old school” ones—are quickly becoming acclimated. As with any revolution of communication, there are new etiquette rules that are necessary so as not to be rude or disrespectful.

Here are a few steps to take when deciding what method to contact someone, and how to approach the conversation:

  1. Develop different timbres of conversation depending on who you’re talking to. If you’re texting or emailing someone unfamiliar to you, assume a more formal voice in the message to stay professional. As you get to know them, you can dispense with pleasantries and be more informal. Take cues on how to communicate from the ways the other writes you.
  2. When emailing, don’t write the subject until you’re done with the rest of the email. This will help you list out all important subjects so that the other person has a better idea of the email’s content. It will also help you avoid unhelpful, non-descriptive subjects like “Hi.”
  3. Choose the appropriate method of contact—text, phone call, email, etc.—based on both the relationship and the topic of discussion. For example, phone calls are generally preferred to texts or emails for asking others out on dates; emails are preferred to phone calls or texts for work questions or submissions; and texts are preferred to phone calls or emails for simple yes or no questions like clarifying appointment locations or starting times.
  4. Be flexible with your peers on their communication preferences. Some people hate texting because they lack unlimited texting plans, others hate emails because they often are not near their computer (or don’t own one), and others hate phone calls because they’re often too busy to be interrupted. Remember that communication is a two-way relationship, so be prepared to adapt.

What are your thoughts on the new forms of communication versus the old?


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