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Emoticons: for Business or Pleasure?

Ah, emoticons. Our users tell us they love these irresistible little animated images. It’s true, they do add an element of fun, and they help convey sentiments often difficult to articulate in words. You can check out Skype’s emoticons “palette” by clicking on the smiley face on the lower right corner of a chat box.

But while they’re popular in personal messages, when (and how) do emoticons fit into business communications?

Here are a few guidelines I follow in my Skype instant messages – perhaps these can help you decide how you’ll use emoticons at work:

  1. Relationship status: I use emoticons most often with colleagues I know well and interact with regularly, like co-workers I see daily or long-time clients.  Emoticons suggest casualness and intimacy so, depending on your company culture, it might make sense to hold off on using them with new colleagues or anyone with whom you have a more formal relationship (like your company president).
  2. Frequency: I use them sparingly; I try to limit myself to one or two emoticons in any chat session. When in doubt, spell it out.
  3. Tone: I use emoticons to express more positive sentiments than negative ones. If I’m telling a co-worker that a project isn’t delivering results, adding an emoticon – like a frowning face –  may suggest I don’t take the situation seriously.

You can see a full list of Skype emoticons here, and (spoiler alert!) it includes the “hidden” emoticons, ones that aren’t included in the main palette. They’re worth checking out if for no other reason than they may bring a smile to your face during a particularly tough work day.

I wanted to call out a few lesser-known emoticons that might be helpful in some business contexts:

  1. Shaking hands or waving: Can be a friendly way to greet a colleague when an IM chat starts

Waving

  1. Call: Can let a colleague know that you propose continuing the conversation on a call

Call

  1. Time: Can indicate a “time check” on a conference call

Time

Do you use Skype emoticons in business chats? Tweet us your favorites: @Skype4biz.

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