Mentor Tip: Communication of Emotions


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Subject: Mentoring tips on communication of emotions

There are many advantages to mentoring via the Internet. Electronic messages can eliminate the barriers imposed by time, distance, and disability that can occur in face-to-face mentoring. However, electronic messages do not include the nonverbal cues people rely upon to communicate effectively. Nonverbal cues include facial expressions, eye contact, intonation, posture, and gestures. Without these cues we can fail to properly interpret the feelings and subtle meanings behind words that are spoken. The intended message in electronic correspondence can be misinterpreted by the person reading the message.

In order to make sure the meaning behind the words in your messages is clear, consider these tips:

  • Start a message with a friendly greeting ("Hello," "Hi," "Dear [name]," etc.).
  • Place "(grin)" at the end of a sentence to tell recipients that your comment is meant to be humorous. Similarly, insert appropriate "emoticons" to take the place of facial expressions or gestures. You can find many collections of emoticons by searching for "emoticons" on the Web, however, it's best to use text-based content rather than graphic images so that participants who are blind can access the content with their text-to-speech systems.
  • Rarely use all capital letters in a message. Capitalizing all letters in one word infers strong emphasis, but capitalizing all letters in an entire message is like yelling at someone in person.