“emotion” : A strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others
“emoji” : A small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion. ‘emoji liven up your text messages with tiny smiley faces’
The Oxford dictionary says thus, about the two words which have occupied a majority of my interactions since the day I was born, a little more than 3 decades ago. Oh yes, doctors have proven that infacts have emotions and their goo-goos and gaa-gaas , what we adults term “baby blabbers” apparently have their own meanings. And every person who has read my correspondences will tell you one thing — “reading his mail, is like to hear him sit next us and talk. any form of interaction is so lively, he is a live-wire”.
That, I’ve considered a compliment all through my life. Getting the message across as intended over written forms of communication is always a challenge and somehow I seemed to have mastered it, atleast in all the informal correspondences. My communication is studded with emojis, symbols that denote expressions, quotes, colors if need be, annotations, underscores and what not. While this promises an immersive experience, as I grew up the corporate ladder, I discovered I attracted lots of disadvantages. Numb to that very fact, I chugged along like a dog with a bone reluctant to change ways, blissfully unaware of the silent damages that have found their way and nestle safe under my canopy of ignorance, literally.
February 7th it was, when a good friend of mine at office decided to throw me into a challenge : No emojis or hashtags in my conversations for a month (I wish I could record that look on my face when I realised he wasn’t kidding when he said that). But fears would haunt me — what if I end up throwing myself into a place where I’d never ever want to do emojis, ever again? what if people start hating me? term me rude, shroud and shoving? And a hundred more questions poured down on me, as I headed back home. I was free to not take the challenge, but by the day ended, the trust I had in him, signed me up. And today, marks the end of that duration. What happened between then and now? Let me spare you the noise and call out the 6 important points, here goes:
- Lazer sharp focus: 6+ modes of conversations, 20+ active threads, 100+ mails to attend (not even 1/20th of what my manager handles at any point in time). Not using emojis meant am saving time that goes into picking few from 500+ sticker packs I have (yes, am crazy and I love it). My focus is sharp on what is going on, and my train of thought isn’t constantly paused in lieu of emoji search
- Faster closures: When most of your conversations happen with folks spread across different time zones, closures are crucial to run businesses. Decisions are demanded at an ASAP mode. In the last one month, I’ve been able to drive atleast 40% more decisions to closure than before. Ain’t that productive?
- Catching the signals: Saving time from emoji search has led to improved comprehension of messages and beyond anything, am finally mastering the art of “reading between the lines” and taking necessary actions. Being smart as you grow up the ladder is to identify, manage and act wisely on all those signals you get about folks trying to cause harm to you or your team for their personal gains and wants. You are not going to be a good manager if you cannot shield your team and teach them of the same
- New level unlocked: I quit sugarcoating feedback. Am no more afraid of retaliation. I dont care if am regarded as rude. It is OK if am not known as a sweet-chap. I am OK if folks paint me “changed person”. For now, I focus more on the final outcome, and less on what happens along the way. No, it doesn’t mean am gonna sucker punch someone or be numb to their feelings. It just means I can now operate from a space I never did, a space that is far more serious, more matured and the one that has be more rational than emotional. I delivered my first S.T.A.R (Situation or Task (ST), the Action (A), and Result (R)) feedback to a colleague that was not a compliment and shocked myself.
- More value for my emotions (and emojis): Sounds ironic aye! But now am unpredictable. Folks aren’t used me steering away from emojis and emotions. A new filter has had me evolved. The value of my emojis has gone up. The person on the other side is more likely to pay attention to it rather then ignore it, treating it as just another “cartoon”, a flurry of them that I once used. My messages stand a better chance of not just being understood, but valued
- Crisp, Clear, Shorter, Faster: Successful leaders are known to be sharp and crisp in their communication. That leads to quicker decision making as the impact of the message delivered is profound. I strayed in that path every now and then, but now I have made that my primary path. Like Iron Maiden sang, “Be Quick Or Be Dead”. If you dont do it, someone else will. If you dont get there, someone else is already there — you dont succeed. I rather be known for being closure and goal driven, than a wanderer who keeps everyone happy
At the end of this journey, my worst fears are rested, never to wake up again. A survey I did across the team ensured am still regarded as “friendly”, “approachable”, “energetic”, “positive vibes supplier”, “preferred person” and all that I will be known for. These are from the ones whom I feared would retaliate the most
My emotions still stay intact, so does my love and affection for emojis. What started as a struggle and made me feel crippled, has ended making me feel lighter and liberated. I found new ways of catering to emotions that of mine and others — far more subtle but more impactful. Ways that will make me a better leader, fare more respectful than I am today. As I take the strides towards the next stages of my career and life, my focus on the visions and goals are greater than before. I let my actions talk and take care of things I tried to do via emojis and hashtags like before.
With all of my heart, I express my gratitude to the good friend who put me through this challenge, and just like he plugs in opportunistic quotes, I wind this doing the same. In the words of the legendary Babe Ruth —