An early indicator of how culturally-ingrained emojis had become was in 2015 when the Oxford Dictionaries' “Word of the Year” wasn’t a word but actually the emoji, 😂.
Sixty-one percent of emoji users use emojis at work. Twenty-six million custom emojis have been created in Slack since the “Add Custom Emoji” feature was introduced and “emoji use is basically universal” for the 13 million daily active users of Microsoft's unified communication and collaboration platform, Teams.
We aren’t communicating as well as we think.
Ninety percent of the time people think their emails and texts are understood by recipients, but actually the messages are understood only 50 percent of the time, according to Nick Morgan, author of Can You Hear Me? How to Connect with People in a Virtual World.
For example, according to Morgan, recipients of a two-word email or text such as "nice job" or "great work” interpret the message as sarcastic 60 percent of the time.
Why do people misinterpret so frequently?
Humans have a tendency to assume the worst when the intent of communication isn’t clear. The negative bias that once alerted the brain of cavemen and cavewomen of potential dangers, like bears or alligators, is still very active in the minds of today’s modern workers.
How do we overcome negative biases hijacking the intended meanings of our communications and ensure our messages aren’t misunderstood 50 percent of the time?
Research indicates that the same part of the brain that processes human faces also processes emojis. When an emoji conveys a human emotion, it can be transferred in a text. Therefore, emojis help communicators manage the emotional tone of digital messages. And emojis help recipients interpret the tone of digital messages.
For example, an “Ok” text from someone can be interpreted as acceptance, apathy, submissive, passive aggressive, or others. But an "Ok 😃” text is easily interpreted as positive acceptance. Adding an emoji removes the emotional ambiguity. Emojis can also create more efficiency by quickly conveying the intent and context that would otherwise be missing in a message.
Unsure what emoji to use for a certain emotion? Use Emojipedia to search emojis by emotions or other categories.
The proper use of emojis help people form relationships and understand one another, according to a recent review of 50 studies on the use and impacts of emojis in communication.
More specifically, when emojis are used at work, the majority of emoji users feel they positively impact likability (78 percent) and credibility (63 percent), and make positive news more sincere (74 percent). And 81 percent of emoji users believe that people who use emojis are friendlier and more approachable.
In addition, 94 percent of emoji users said the “ability to communicate across language barriers” was the greatest benefit of using emojis.
While using emojis at work is becoming more commonplace, many of the mixed views of emojis can be explained largely by age. In general, the emerging generations (Millennials and Gen Z) place more value on using emojis while established generations (Gen X and Baby Boomers) tend to view emojis as unprofessional and counterproductive.
Professionals over 45 years-old, are more likely to say that emoji use at work is inappropriate versus appropriate. In addition...
Conversely, young professionals overwhelming view emojis as appropriate for work. In fact, only 17 percent of young adults consider emoji use unprofessional.
Using emojis with Gen Z is a low risk, high return way to connect with and influence the next-generation workforce.
Beyond emojis, sending GIFs to Gen Z can provide similar benefits as highlighted above. However, there can be greater risk of misinterpretation with GIFs as certain cultural references depicted in the GIF may not extend across generations. When using a GIF be sure the Gen Z recipient will get the intent behind the reference.
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