Chat Apps like WhatsApp have become an indispensable medium of communication owing to its convenience of use. And while it is a great platform to keep in touch, there are however, some implicit etiquette guidelines to be mindful about. Unfortunately, despite being common courtesy, many of us are guilty of these ‘faux pas’ sometimes, so it might help to list a few.
Sending and receiving messages:
Even though Whatsapp is instant messaging, it’s unreasonable to expect an immediate response. People are ‘online’ for various reasons, and are entitled to respond when the time is right for them, even if they have read your message. If you don’t get a response within 48 hours, give the receiver the benefit of doubt. Send a brief follow-up text instead of assuming the reader has wilfully ignored your message. Besides, if you’d like an immediate response, the best option would be phone call.
Sending a string of messages, each just four or five words long, or even shorter, is not cool. It makes it difficult for the reader to scroll, and to also cope with the pace of messages you are bombarding them with. It can be very annoying to see ‘25 unread messages’ and then realise the insignificance of the content. Send a longer message instead, using the ‘return’ button to space your thoughts, keeping them within the same message.
Emojis are great for explaining the tone of your message and for personalising your conversation. Emojis however, shouldn’t be a substitute for your message itself. Responding with an emoji could reflect nonchalance, indicate busy-ness, and may even abruptly halt the conversation. Besides, not everyone interprets an emoji in the same way, so do be careful before choosing one. Another word of caution on emojis — avoid using multiple emojis; like punctuation marks, they have no added value. Don’t abruptly leave a conversation unless it’s an emergency. Signal your departure with a brief message like ‘BRB’ (Be Right Back). Re-engage later as appropriate.
Sharing ‘forwards’ is a nice way to stay connected, especially when there’s not much else to share, but senseless spamming can be bothersome. Contrary to popular practice, forwarded messages are generally perceived as boring and a waste of time, so use discretion when forwarding messages.
It’s considerate to verify the authenticity of a message before forwarding it. A quick Google search will do the trick. When forwarding a message, picture, or video, add a brief personal note to say why you are doing so, unless the purpose is obvious.
A forwarded greeting doesn’t warrant a response, unless it is personalised in some way, or is accompanied by a personal note. So don’t expect reciprocation if you have sent a forwarded picture of flowers, smiling babies, or the sunrise.
When you receive a forwarded message that is informational or inspiring, remember the thought behind the action. If you have received the same message earlier, try not to respond by saying “saw this last week”, or “got the same thing five times today”. Be gracious to respond as if you’ve not seen it before. Responding with something like, “interesting!”, or “Nice one!” shows regard for the gesture.
Many of us think we can text at any time on a group chat, assuming those who want to sleep will ‘mute’. But imagine waking up to hundred plus unread messages; and then having to scroll through them all. For this reason, especially when starting a conversation, it’s considerate to be mindful of unearthly hours, whether members are across the street or the globe. Try to ‘maintain the bond’ by making a contribution, every now and then, instead of staying silent for long periods of time. It’s okay to share memes and forwards on a group chat, but do post some personalised messages too. Ensure your posts are inclusive. This means, whatever you post should interest all others in the group. Avoid one-on-one conversations. Use personal chat instead. If you wish to leave a group, excuse yourself before doing so. For example say, “Excuse me folks, I’m leaving as I’m having difficulty catching up. I’ll be in touch one-to-one.” Or just type a courteous “With your permission” before exiting.
All it takes is a little bit of thoughtfulness — remembering the person behind the post — to make instant messaging a pleasant experience for all.
Carolann Philips is an award winning, certified management coach and organisational development coach based in Oman. She is also a talent developer, etiquette and protocol consultant. She specialises in behavioural skill development and professional performance enhancement.