To X or not to X, that is the question…

Not so long ago adding a few kisses to a business or work email would have seemed unthinkable. Unless you were particularly close to a colleague or client such an action would suggest at best, you were being overly familiar and at worst, that you were trying to hit on them and could possibly some kind of office pervert.

Yet increasingly people are putting xxx at the end of a business missive. It’s not just people I know either, as often as not it’s complete strangers, both those prospecting for business from me and potential clients getting in touch for the first time.

But is it right? Should we be letting this informality creep into our business lives quite so much? Does it show we’re all human, in it together, more empathetic and willing to help or is it simply muddying the waters and making business more fraught with pitfalls?

XXX, three loaded keystrokes

The trouble with adding a kiss or two to the end of a business communique is it’s totally loaded and creates more questions than it answers. The subtext of those little kisses can speak volumes and on any given day, mean many different things. 

Sometimes I see them and they make me think, “Awww what a lovely caring person, they really value me and what I do.” Other times, I might think far more cynically that such an attempt at overfamiliarity is merely a ploy to get me to off them a better price. And then the narcissistic part of my brain might even think, “Are they trying it on with me?!” 

I also wonder what possesses a person who has never met me, or with whom I might have had a brief two-minute conversation to think they could be familiar enough to put kisses.  And what if they put more than one? Does one signal simple friendliness while two or more hints at a more romantic intention? Or are multiple kisses simply a sign of someone else’s platonic happiness that you’ve really helped them out with their issue?

The trouble with all this second-guessing is you can spend too much time dwelling on the meaning of kisses to the point where your focus is no longer on the job but on what they actually mean by it all!

A more caring workplace

On the other hand, we live in progressive times and thankfully, in a world where people are (hopefully) more understanding of their fellow man. Those lines between professional and personal are blurred more than ever before and the addition of a kiss can create an atmosphere of amity which can actually benefit the business. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t felt more inclined to help a client out after they signed off an email with a kiss or when a satisfied client had followed their effusive praise with a load of ecstatic xxxxxx.

Anything that fosters understanding and helpfulness, no matter how small, can only be a good thing and I think there has a been a danger in the past to ignore the human aspect of the business, overlooking the psychology behind the way we all interact on a professional level. That’s not to say we should all declare our undying love for a fellow colleague or a new client – you want to close a sale, create a better business relationship, not end up on the end of a sexual harassment charge!

Should we all be adopting a warmer approach?

Whether we should all be putting more kisses in our work emails is a matter of personal taste and I think it’s something you have to play by ear. Some of my clients are very friendly, they open up to me. A lot. They have become regular clients and whisper it, some have even become friends. I have no problem using kisses in my emails to them. 

I do tend to stay away from it when people contact me out of the blue and prefer using “best wishes” instead – friendly enough to show I’m engaging with them but not so friendly that they think I‘m trying to be their new bestie.

With other business contacts, it’s again on a case by case basis. There are a few who I am close to and have huge respect for - a kiss or two from me is an acknowledgement of that deep admiration. Then there is the vast majority whom I wouldn’t dream of blowing an electronic kiss to for fear quite frankly of devaluing my professional position. 

At the end of the day, it’s about personal choice and the great thing is we do now have far more freedom to decide how to conduct our business relationships. For now, though, I shall be using my kisses sparingly and saving them for those work occasions when they really can make a difference.

Written by Fay Millar - Brighton Cakes