How we communicate says a lot about us.  We have all read the business magazines and journals that break communication exchanges down. (I may actually do a bit of that in future posts.) However, for the purpose of this blog, in my opinion, your communication shows two things about you no matter the format: how well you listen and how much you care. 

There are folks that like formality in their social media messages and texts and the folks that simply just want the phone number when asked for it.  Which is right?  How do you communicate when you don’t know the person? 

Some attribute the answer to the person’s generation and say Boomers always prefer formal correspondence.  Maybe?  Sometimes, Millennials don’t want to be lumped into a group characterized by a list of specific behaviors.  Some actually prefer to be formal, too. Really and Truly! Wait…what?

Personally, I think the answer is simple. One cannot assume that because they have read your LinkedIn profile or seen your comments on social media that they KNOW you.  Our culture is quick to cut formalities; however, we are also just as quick to take offense.  Therefore, correspondence with a person that you do not know must always be formal, INITIALLY, regardless of age.

What does “formal” mean?  It means using proper honorifics, using a little nicety in the message, and then getting to the point or purpose of the correspondence. What is a nicety?  It’s a polite detail linked with good etiquette such as “I hope this finds you well.”

We don’t always know the other person on the other end of the correspondence.  So, if you receive a kind email, message, or text, with formalities, asking for your phone number or email.  Then, its best to respond in the same style or manner.  Otherwise, your short answer could be perceived as short and rude.  You may not like to write this type of messages but it is what it is.  You never want to risk damaging a relationship with someone when it can be avoided. So, turn off read receipts and wait until you have time to compose a proper message.

If the person you are corresponding with becomes less formal in their signature, then after a few back and forth exchanges, with text or email, you could opt into using the person’s first name.  However, when in doubt, it is always best to proceed with caution.  You will never go wrong with being more formal.  There is no harm in it. The only thing that it reveals is that you feel a strong need to communicate, respectfully, until you can gauge the true nature of your relationship in person.

Once you have met the person “in person” there will be no guess work.  Most people will tell you what they prefer in the way of business correspondence when asked politely.  I hope this blog will help some of you job seekers out there to put their “best foot forward” in today’s digital world.