Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Say it with a GIF: How looping animations speak where words fail

It was my brother’s birthday yesterday. Rather than offer a lot of obligatory “Happy birthdays,” my siblings and I did this: 

toast fireworks gif
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giphy (1)
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Fun, isn’t it?

Not only that, but animated gifs* are more emotive than a bland “happy birthday” or any other expression you’re trying to share.

This is because gifs double as digital body language. That’s important because most of our communication is composed of nonverbal language, around 75%. You read that right, 75%, often more.

In other words, the more gifs you use when communicating, the greater influence you’ll have on those you communicate with.

I speak from experience. Over the last three years, I’ve increasingly used gifs in response to professional emails, texts, and even auto-responders. Doing so has delighted my co-workers, readers, and clients on countless occasions. I get compliments all the time. So much, in fact, I believe gifs are capable of humanizing the sender.

This matters to me because I work from home. Years ago, after the great recession hit, a high-paying client called to terminate my contract. “Sorry, Blake,” he said. “You file great work. Clean writing. You’ve even boosted our traffic. But you’re just not as real as the people I see everyday in my office, so I’m afraid I have to let you go.”

I embellished that last line a bit. But the message was loud and clear: face time matters. Presence matters. Showing up matters. Failing to do so, despite good work even, will impact your income.

Although gifs will never replace actual face time, hand shakes, hugs, and high-fives (note: I’ve since increased the number of in-person visits I pay to clients and family), gifs can facilitate stronger presence, more emotion, and greater language when communicating electronically.

So the next time you need to say “thank you,” laugh out loud, congratulate someone, pitch someone, vent, express excitement or sadness, appease your boss, exchange high-fives, deflect haters, or even respond to reporter’s request for comment, I highly recommend you say it with a gif.

To achieve this, Google the desired [emotion or saying] + the word gif, copy your favorite (or create your own using gifyoutube.com, imgflip.com or the 5 second gif app), then paste the result into your email or chat box. No additional words required. Let the gif do the talking for you.

Your relationships, effective communication, and use of language will thank you.

* Gif is acceptably pronounced “gif” or “jif,” according to Oxford American Dictionary. I linguistically say “gif” with a hard g, because the “g” in gif stands for graphics. Uber nerds and the creator of the gif, however, say “jif” like the peanut butter.