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Smiley Faces No Substitute for True Smiles in the Workplace

If you’re unhappy with the appearance of your smile, you might be grateful that the virtual workplace lets you avoid seeing people. But it turns out that smiley face emojis don’t have the same effect as actual smiles. While actual beautiful smiles can have a positive impact on communication, smiley faces can undermine communication.

A woman smiling while at work

Emojis Make You Look Less Professional

For this study, researchers at three universities–led by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, performed experiments with 549 participants in 29 different countries. They used three different experiments to determine the impact of emojis on formal workplace communications.

In the first experiment, people were shown emails from an unknown person and asked to rate the competence and warmth of the person sending the message. Some of the messages had emojis, while others did not. In this experiment, the presence of the smiley did not impact the perceived warmth of the sender. It did, however, impact the perception of competence: senders of emails with emojis were rated as less competent.

In a second experiment, emails also either included a smiley or not, but they also had a photograph, which was either neutral or smiling. As in the first experiment, a smiley didn’t increase perceptions of friendliness, but did decrease perceptions of competence. However, the presence of a smiling photo increased perceptions of both friendliness and competence! (This may be why people have low opinions of models in both categories!)

Perhaps the most striking result of the study was that people were less likely to give a comprehensive response to people who communicated with emojis. When asked to reply to emails, they included less content-related information to someone who sent them an email with an emoji in it.

Although perceptions of warmth and competence certainly can influence workplace communication, it’s this last finding that is truly the most significant. If people are less willing to share information with people who use emojis, it means these symbols can actually interfere with workplace communication.

Of course, these findings are only valid when the sender is a stranger. It doesn’t tell us how people respond to emojis sent by a person known to them.

There’s No Substitute for a True Smile

Although digital communication is becoming increasingly important in the workplace, it isn’t going to eliminate the significance of your smile. In some ways, it might actually make your smile more important.

After all, if a person’s only introduction to you is via email or social media, your picture might be the only evidence they have of who you are as a person. And in that picture, your smile has to carry a lot of weight. It has to convey both competence and friendliness. It has to show that you are healthy and intelligent. If you truly want your smile to do all it can for you, you have to do all you can for your smile. This may mean anything from maintaining oral health with checkups and cleanings to getting a cosmetic dentistry smile makeover.

No matter what level of attention our smile needs, we can guarantee you’ll get it and more from Advanced Dentistry of Tarrytown. Please call (914) 332-4402 today for an appointment with one of our Westchester County dentists.