Please do not just say “Hello” in a Chat

Using modern chat communication tools are nice, are not they? We use them on a daily basis, could be Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Chat, or even WhatsApp, you name your tool of choice. In my case I am mainly working with Microsoft Teams – obviously.

For me, those modern chat communication should be done in a way that they save us time and enables an efficient exchange of information. To me, an e-mail should get answered within 24 hours – if it can not wait that long, instant messaging is a good alternative to calling a person.

Most tools show you the status of the person you want to talk to (busy, away, in a call, do not disturb, etc.), which means you sort of know if you can expect an instant reply or not. If the other person is busy with other meetings, you might end up with an asynchronous exchange of information. This is not necessarily bad, but you want to make this as efficient as possible. Do not expect an answer if you just write “Hello” in chat…

Chat Etiquette

We all hard of the “Meeting Etiquette”, when moving into a predominantly remote world it is time to also pay more attention to chat etiquettes. Just dropping a “Hello” might not be the best use of time. An example I experience too often by random (unknown) co-workers

2020-10-03 08:41:10 Person-A: Hello
2020-10-03 08:41:25 Person-B: Hi

~~ Waiting while Person-A is phrasing the message ~~

2020-10-03 08:43:04 Person A: I am working on ABC and have some questions. Could you help me?  
2020-10-03 08:43:32 Person-B: OK, cool. How can I be of help?

~~ Waiting while Person-A is phrasing the question ~~

Sounds familiar, huh? Imagine you would do this in a phone call, putting the call on-hold for 1-2 minutes. What would have been much better instead, to come up with the question in your first message already. Something along those lines:

2020-10-03 08:41:10 Person-A: Hello. I am working on ABC and need help on []
2020-10-03 08:42:22 Person-B: Hi. Sure, have a look at [] and []. Let me know if this solved your problem.

This would not get you to the answers sooner, it also avoids this split communication between meetings. Also, your co-worked can start thinking about your question and potential answer right away. Sending the “Hello” and not rushing might be an attempt to be polite, but chat is not a phone call and requires a different style of communication.

Other famous examples which look polite, but actually just prolong the communication…

  • Hello, are you there?
  • Hi, quick question for you.
  • Hey, do you a have second?

Just take the time to write up your question and send the message. It does not mean you have to remove all polite elements. You can still do things like…

  • Hi, when you have a second I was wondering if you could help me on a topic. I am working on…
  • Hey there, quick question for you as soon as you have time. How did you…

There is just one more thing…

Some people use instant messages to probe if your status is correct. Since you can set it to “away” or “offline” to hide, you can not trust the status of the messenger alone anymore. But does it matter?

Instant Messaging is not a “drop all you are working at and answer me now” requests. You are not my mother, nor my wife, so one at the time 🙂


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