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The Art of Conversation in the Online World

Aug 17, 2007
The art of conversation has been radically changed with the advent of electronic forms of communication such as text messaging, instant messaging and email. Now you no longer need to be in the same room as another person in order to conduct a conversation. But to conduct a conversation with electronic forms of communication such as these, you also have to learn some new skills.

There are certain aspects of electronic conversation that make it stand out:

1) Speed of the chat
2) Relative ease of use
3) Low cost

Electronic conversation is very useful. For example, I could be trapped in traffic but need to inform the people I am going to meet that I will be very late for the meeting. In such cases, I could rely on my trusty cellphone to text one of the parties concerned so that we can re-schedule the meeting for another day. Or I may have a document that I want different people in an organization to read - I can easily attach the document to my email message and type in the email addresses of my multiple recipients. Within seconds, the different receivers of my message will be able to get that common email, read it, and act on it. Electronic conversation cuts down on the time that you may use to conduct a normal conversation, thus making you more productive. And since it is less expensive than other types of communication (say, sending a letter via regular post) that should take care of the bottom line.

There are, however, also disadvantages to resorting to electronic communication. A statement made through text, for example, might be interpreted differently from the same statement made face to face. This is because a text message is not accompanied by non-verbal cues and facial expressions that help us discern meaning. A newcomer to text or email etiquette might resort to using all caps in his message, not knowing that using all caps is the equivalent of shouting in the electronic communication world. The newcomer might also try using smileys or emoticons the wrong way, thus confusing the receiver. Poor spelling and typos also make communication confusing.

How does one prevent miscommunication from happening through electronic communication? Here are some ways:

1. Make sure you read the message sent to you thoroughly. If you have any questions, bring them up with the sender.

2. Refrain from typing your message in all caps. If someone sends you a message in all caps, discreetly inform him that the practice of using all caps is interpreted as shouting in the electronic communication world.

3. Study the proper use of emoticons or smileys. When used properly, they can brighten up someone's day. Used improperly, you may wreck a perfectly good friendship.

4. When resorting to text jargon, be sure that the other party can understand your shortcuts. Many people resort to changing how they spell words in email and text, only to find out that the other party cannot understand such shortcuts. There are times when longer is definitely better.

5. If you are emailing someone, use a program that will conduct spell checking of your text for you. For example, you might be using a word processing program file that will be later attached to your email. In this case, taking time to do spell checking will definitely cut down on instances of miscommunication.

6. If you are new to the communication technology that you will be using, it will be beneficial if you were to ask a more experienced person to teach you the ins and outs of the technology first. This makes it easier for you to use it.

By following these tips, you will be able to practice the art of conversation even through electronic forms of communication.
About the Author
Peter Murphy is a peak performance expert. He recently produced a very popular free report: 10 Simple Steps to Developing Communication Confidence. Apply now because it is available only at: conversation starters
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