Psychology researchers from the University of Chichester in the U.K. think you’re not using enough emojis. They say that because so much of humanity has been forced into isolation by the coronavirus and is now talking exclusively online, 93 percent of usual communication cues are not being used. To make up for this, use emojis.
Emojis were first created in the late 1990s by Shigetaka Kurita, an engineer at the Japanese phone company, NTT Docomo. The word “emoji” combines two Japanese words: “e” (for “picture”) and “moji” (for “character”). Currently, over five billion emojis are sent every day on Facebook, with the most popular one being a face crying tears of joy.
In work communications, emojis can be engaged as a substitute for the missing body language, which research shows to be responsible for as much as 55 percent of non-verbal cues, while another 38 percent come from the pitch and tonality of a person’s voice.
In an interview with Digital Trends, Dr. Moitree Banerjee, the head of psychology programs and a senior lecturer at the University of Chichester, explained that communication by email places the focus on content, and not on voice and facial expressions. This doesn’t give enough indication to our colleagues how we feel.
Incorporating emojis or images can aid the person reading your email to decode its tone.
“Emojis can help immensely in communication as a proxy cue of attitude of the communicator,” said Dr. Banerjee. “[They are] quasi-nonverbal cues. Emoticons allow receivers to correctly understand the level and direction of emotion, attitude, and attention expression. Apart from conveying the attitude, emojis can also provide reassurance that the receiver may need.”
Does this mean you should be sending frowny faces or thumbs up pictograms to your boss? Banerjee recommends using simple icons that can be easily interpreted and encourages finding a way to make your communication “mindful.”
“It is the time to cultivate awareness and be non-judgmental; for the sender and receiver to be aware of the gaps in communication caused by this new mode of communication,” pointed out the researcher, adding that while it may be “unorthodox to use emojis in a formal work setup,” the current situation calls for breaking the rules in order to make up for the missing cues.