We would not have been as interested in looking into a message starting with Hi or Hello. And why is that? It is simply because the way we are addressed in writing by others conveys a clear idea of how much the writer appreciates our readership and us as individuals. It is certain that a lot of people in the world just do not care. But the opposite is true, as well: many of us value a bit of polite distance.
Whether you consider us eternally young or specimens of the group referred to as Dinosaurs, or Boomers (read: the older generations) are still alive and kicking. We are still working a lot, functioning in valued, expert and even leading positions and maintaining meaningful roles in society – and will continue to do so with the retirement age forever disappearing further into the future years.
Politeness is not about equality
However, the importance of knowing how to address people correctly in a given situation is not just about age, generation or position (even though these are rather important issues for surprisingly many people, explicitly) but about showing respect. Usually no-one minds respectful and polite tone, but everyone notices when it is not there!
So why should one show respect when addressing an audience for business purposes? The answer is very simple, really: it does not cost you anything but a few seconds required to write a polite salutation, but it can earn you an enormous reward, that of appearing knowledgeable and educated, whether as a private individual or, particularly, as a representative of your organisation or professional community. On the other hand, not understanding, not valuing or even ignoring a key communicative code or convention may make the writer seem unappreciative, ignorant or just plain rude.
It is a fact that politeness will give you larger audiences, and better audiences, more and better business when you are not creating boundaries by excluding any parts of your target audience due to the wrong codes. In our egalitarian, low-hierarchy country we favour relaxed, almost colloquial styles and expressions, or forms of address but this, Dear Reader, may not be true elsewhere.
You only need to cross one of our borders to meet different communicative and business cultures to adapt to. When meeting formality younger generations may easily regard it as old-fashioned and pretentious. But this is not a question of hierarchy. It is about respect and creating an appropriate distance. Today, politeness elevates and brightens up our lives in the era of hate speech. We have the freedom of choice.
Respect and politeness are worth the try
At Haaga-Helia, we strive to provide our students and future graduates a large repertoire of registers for communicating effectively for business purposes for various global audiences. The famous You guys or introducing a plethora of emojis in your professional messages just is not always appropriate. We think it is important to understand your recipients’ cultures and the underlying values and conventions that help us to address our audiences in ways that are appropriate, polite and respectful.
By providing a solid framework of knowledge of and tools in good business communication on our language and communication courses we want to increase the awareness of a polite business message style. One that speaks to the various stakeholder groups and creates the goodwill that mastering a polite and respectful yet contemporary and efficient communication style in different situations brings. Whether you start the message with a simple Dear Maarit, or with Dear Mrs Åberg or another appropriate salutation may be the key trigger for having the recipient’s attention to you, and to your business.
Thank you for your time and attention. We look forward to hearing from you again.
Kristiina Åberg (Mrs)
Maarit Ohinen-Salvén (Mrs)