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Here's Why You Should Never Use the Smiley Emoji at Work

smiley emoji in work email
Maggie Rossetti/Thrillist

When you're restricted to an inherently toneless mode of communication like email day-in and day-out, you might think that peppering some pleasant emoji into your work messages every once and a while might lighten things up a bit. However, according to a new study, including smiley emojis in formal work communications may actually cause your coworkers to question your intelligence. In other words, using smiley emojis makes people think you're dumb.

So, maybe cool it with the forced friendliness?

The findings, which were recently published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal by a team of researchers at the University of Amsterdam, the University of Haifa, and the Ben-Gurion University found that unlike actual smiles, "smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence."

To determine this, they conducted a series of experiments in which hundreds of participants were asked to read work-related emails from unknown people, then evaluate them based on both the competence and "warmth" of the person who sent it. And while the messages were all similar, those that contained smileys not only didn't have any effect on how warm a person seemed, but actually reduced the perception of the sender's level of competence.

As Dr. Ella Glikson, one of the lead researchers behind the study explained, "When the participants were asked to respond to e-mails on formal matters, their answers were more detailed and they included more content-related information when the e-mail did not include a smiley." So essentially, including a smiley in a message flags you as someone less worthy of time and energy. "We found that the perceptions of low competence if a smiley is included in turn undermined information sharing," Glikson said.

The takeaway, besides the fact that emojis are and will continue to be a very complicated language, is that you should ditch them in professional email correspondence, unless you know the recipient well. As Glikson suggests "For now, at least, a smiley can only replace a smile when you already know the other person. In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender."

Oh, and while we're on the subject of digital communication dos and don'ts, remember to quit ending your text messages with a period :)

h/t The Next Web

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.