Think the Little Things Don’t Matter? Think Again!

By Dawn Mentzer

As a solopreneur, your personal brand can make or break you in business. It influences not only how prospects, clients and colleague perceive you; it also affects the expectations that others have regarding your work – and your style of communicating. When working to establish your personal brand, you need to be genuine and you need to be consistent. Of course, it typically doesn’t take long for people who are dishonest when building their brands to be discovered as fakers, but if you stray from conducting business (in even the smallest of ways) according to what your personal brand is known for, you risk creating misunderstanding  and unintentional hard feelings.

A Real Life Example
Last week, after several days following my return from vacation, someone whom I’ve been working with on a project emailed me to ask if something might be amiss that would have strained our working relationship. I was stunned! It completely caught me off-guard because I absolutely adore working with this person. She’s responsive, bright, enthusiastic, detailed and extremely personable…I couldn’t imagine what might have led her to believe there was a problem. Realizing that addressing her concerns needed more than just a reply email, I picked up the phone and called her.

Turns out that there was nothing particular in the content of my emails that caused her to think I was upset. However, since arriving home, I unintentionally wasn’t as expressive in my emails. Specifically, I wasn’t using as many exclamation points as I’ve been known to in past communications. I was indeed lighter on my “!”s than usual, but not because I was in any way angry; in the hustle and bustle of catching up after over a week away, I quite simply didn’t take the time or pay attention to that little finishing touch when emailing.

I felt perfectly horrible for the misunderstanding, and she felt silly for misinterpreting my punctuation (or lack of). Thankfully, we both felt comfortable in being honest and open with each other to set the record straight. Otherwise, some non-existent problem might have festered and caused a permanent rift in our collaborations.

The Lesson
If something so seemingly trivial as not using exclamation points in an email can generate a misunderstanding, think about what could happen if you depart to a larger degree from what people expect from you and your brand. The little things really do matter – whether you realize it or not!

Your turn! Have you ever experienced a breakdown in communication or a misunderstanding that you could have avoided by being true to your brand?

6 comments on “Think the Little Things Don’t Matter? Think Again!
  1. Tim Allen says:

    I can be terse. Just like that. And I often wonder if a person feels like I don’t have time for them. On deadlines days or when there just seems to be an overload of work to be done, my email conversations can be just like that, and even phone conversations at times. But I hope my smile comes through on the receiver. And my emails could benefit from the same. Like so! 🙂

    • dawnmentzer says:

      Hi Tim! Being under the gun to meet deadlines can make anyone seemingly less social…just no time to be chatty! I think as long as we give some explanation as to why we’re “short” helps prevent people from taking it personally. On the phone, you probably do a good job of keeping your tone of voice upbeat and positive even when you can’t accommodate a long conversation. Conversing over the phone definitely has the advantage over email in that respect. And sometimes that permanent record in email gives us too much opportunity to dwell over what someone has written and think there’s something between the lines that isn’t actually there!

      Speaking of emails…did you get my response to yours from last week? I thought it would be easier to talk over the phone…if no deadlines are looming that is!

  2. The same exact thing happened to me a couple of months ago! I’m usually upbeat and all “:)” in my emails/texts. A client texted me with a question, I replied, and she replied back with “is everything OK?”

    Apparently my lack of 🙂 and ! made her think that I was upset with her for some reason. And here I thought all that enthusiasm might be driving her crazy. Go figure!

    • dawnmentzer says:

      Hi Marcus!

      You certainly did have a similar experience! Like your 🙂 , I sometimes think my !!! are overdone and might make people think I’m hyper-thrilled about everything. (For the record, I use those smiley faces more than most, too!). Goes to show that our M.O. in expressing ourselves in email is what people have come to expect…and enjoy…about communicating with us electronically. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. It’s so hard to read the tone in email. But, as someone who uses electronic communications for everything, I can certainly relate! It’s amazing what we pick up from something like not using exclamation points! It just goes to show you who’s listening!

    • dawnmentzer says:

      Thanks for your comment, Rachel! – Says Dawn with an exclamation point. 😉

      This situation definitely made me more aware of the need to not take my email tone for granted!

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