1st August 2019 by Joanne Redfern
I was surprised recently when a client sent me an email that read ‘πππ’.
Don’t get me wrong: I love an emoji as much as the next person. But in a professional email about submitting a manuscript?
According to Emojipedia, ‘face with tears of joy’ is widely used to show something is funny or pleasing. (Interestingly, it was also Oxford Dictionaries 2015 word of the year.) Great, my client was very pleased/amused with me! But how should I respond? π?
In the end, I was boring and wrote a standard text-based email (‘Thank you for your positive response…’). But it got me thinking: as the emoji’s popularity shows no sign of waning, is it time we embraced it in our corporate – and medical – communications?
Well, in fact, emojis are already playing a role in healthcare. For example, the Mayo Clinic used them to assess the quality of life of patients with cancer. And patients at Sydney Children's Hospital stick emoji stickers on a board to explain to doctors how they are feeling each day. As someone who hates talking about feeling unwell or sad, emojifying those conversations gets a π from me.
I also embrace emojis in (some) internal messages, particularly when celebrating a job well done (π). Excellent for conveying tone in an email, they can express friendliness and lighten the mood. But we should be cautious when using them with people we don’t know, or don’t know very well. One study showed that a smiley emoji can actually worsen a virtual first impression, decreasing perceptions of competence.
Perhaps then that’s the key: before using an emoji, we need to know our audience. And even if we do have an emoji-appropriate relationship with our clients, we need to pick our emojis carefully. Much like regular verbal and body language, some emojis translate differently in different countries. So to those of you in the Middle East, apologies for my thumbs up – no offence intended. π