How Do I Have a Winning Communication Experience?
I have just come back from a Thanksgiving family reunion. Everyone came happy and excited to be with each other and have fun. You have seen enough Movies to know how that goes. You can always expect there will be some friction and some heartache. Why? Because as much as we all love each other, we have communication breakdowns. Why? Because we don’t always communicate in a way that the other person knows or understands.
Sometimes we don’t understand what was said, or we don’t understand their facial expressions. What am I, a mind reader???Family is one thing. Even if we have fights we all love each other. We will have a few tears, maybe even some angry words, and then we hug, and say “I love you”. We make it all better. We forget the bad memories and come back for the next family reunion.
Business, however, can be another thing. If you are having this interaction at work or if you are trying to network with someone for business or you are having a one on one with a customer, that is another story all together. There is no bond of love and friendship that will keep you together. What do you do? Even if you think you are the best communicator in the world, if you have a customer that is not a good communicator, your whole presentation or engagement could blow up in your face. How do you overcome that?
Many, many years ago, I went to a two-day Communications course to learn how to be a better communicator. We learned how to be good listeners. But somewhere in translation, I didn’t quite grasp how to engage with people that are terrible communicators. Trust me, there are plenty. Now add to that, the additional issue of trying to communicate with someone while on a mobile phone. That was not in that training, because mobile phones didn’t exist. Here is a personal example: I was having lunch with one of my sons recently and I was sharing a story while he was doing something on his phone. It became apparent to me that he wasn’t listening to anything I was saying. I asked if he was listening. Being honest with his Mom, he sheepishly said “no”. Now what if that situation was with a customer. They would have probably said “of course I am listening” and be totally lying. Then whatever I said, would have been missed. At least I was able to repeat my story with my son, or if it just didn’t matter in the big scheme of things, moved one. But if it is work related, you can’t move on, you want to be sure they received your message.
Here are some good suggestions that I have learned from painful experiences:
- Make sure the person you are conveying your message too, wants to hear the message. (Otherwise going to deaf ears.)
- Don’t try to have that important business conversation when there are distractions like loud music or other chitchat around you. Otherwise they may only hear every other word. They will nod their head that they are hearing you and understand you. But in reality, you know they haven’t a clue what you have been saying. They are just being polite.
- Body language. This is critically important and probably my worst pet peeve. I hate it when people respond to me with a face cringe or bobbing of the head and think I know what that means. Try and ask questions that will elicit a response of a statement rather than a “yes” or “no” answer. Otherwise, you may get a bobbing head and not get the answer you need. Some people may be afraid to answer your question as they are not ready to make a decision at that moment. Asking questions that require a statement rather than a yes or no, will be more helpful. Or that encourage them to ask a question back to formulate that decision. That might allow for a better dialogue eventually giving you the response you need. As hard as it might be, we need to ask gentle questions, so they don’t have the feeling of being interrogated.
- Try to allow that person you are engaging with to feel comfortable to speak and let you know what they are thinking and feeling. Sometimes, that just means “shut up” and “listen”. Bite your lip if you have too. Depending on your personality style that might be a little hard, especially if you are an extrovert like me. But believe me if you want an introvert to respond, you have no choice, you have to give them the space and time to feel comfortable to answer.
Try this exercise: next time in a work discussion whether it is an associate or customer, look at their body language. Do they look comfortable, or do they look anxious? Use that intuition to decide how to “be” with that person so you can have a winning engagement. Is it their personality or are they dealing with an issue that is making life tough right now? You might have to ask some warm up questions to know the answer to that before you delve into your business conversation.
Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Same time, next year, better equipped. Have a better customer experience.