You may not be aware, but how we express ourselves digitally matters

Monday September 13 2021

Digital communication often blankets our feelings and can create ambiguity, often giving a message the unintended meaning. PHOTO | FILE

By Sam Wambugu

How we say something is just as good as what we say. Our facial movements, gestures of our hands, and the tone of our voice determine how well our message is received and how long it is remembered.

The way we raise our eyebrows when excited and drop them when sad; how we inflect our voice depending on our mood or move our hands to emphasise a point is all crucial in getting the other person’s attention.

Likewise, in the tech-reliant world, how we express ourselves using the 21st collaboration tools — WhatsApp messages, email, video — matters. But digital communication often blankets our feelings and can create ambiguity, often giving a message the unintended meaning. Also, reading emotion in digital communication is not easy.

To reinforce our digital communication and enhance understanding, it is imperative that we use the right cues to show our feelings. Those signs are the equivalent of pulling a seat close to a person to listen to them keenly. Those cues include how promptly we respond to messages, the clarity of the message, and how we behave while speaking on video.

How you reply to messages matters — a reply to an email with a short phrase or one word is not usually taken kindly. It shows that you don’t care enough to spend time expressing your ideas clearly. It shows that you are in such a rush, the reason you dropped one word or a short phrase for a reply.


Sign of respect

How promptly you respond to someone’s messages can strengthen or weaken a personal or professional bond. It’s a sign of respect.

Be thoughtful about the email subject line. The email’s subject line needs to be clear, giving a good hint of the content in the body of the message. Before you hit the “send” button, re-read your message to remove errors. A clear and concise message shows that the writer cares and values the reader’s time.

Smiling while on a video call lightens up the mood of the audience and creates a stronger connection. So, practise smiling more often when speaking on video — it expresses pleasantness and is contagious too. As for the audience, use the chatbox of the video application to type messages that reveal your feelings as you watch the speaker in real-time.

Express your emotions by ending your message with exclamation marks and emojis (sparingly) to show excitement or appreciation. These cues are the digital equivalent of hi-fives and a pat on the speaker’s back for a job well done. Of course, if you don’t like the speaker or his message, keep the feelings to yourself.

How we express ourselves digitally, matters. The right digital communication enhancers can create authenticity, trust, and help us to show empathy. If we are leading others, digital body language improves connection and can improve productivity.