I'm going take the liberty of making a couple of assumptions about you as I write this post. Assumption number one, you want to improve your business relationships. Assumption number two, you agree there is a direct correlation between effective communication and building meaningful relationships -- defined -- the more effectively you communicate, the better your relationships will be. If we aren't on the same page, you either have more business and money than you can possibly manage (seek out a great charity) or you are curious about why the heck someone would possibly think like me, but you can't look away -- kind of like a road side traffic wreck. In the case of the latter, I will respectfully disagree with you and ask you to continue reading. I am asking nicely and hope you are open minded.
Be sure your brain is engaged before putting mouth into gear.
Since I am of the belief that effective communication is paramount to producing winning (and profitable) relationships, I want to share with you the secret sauce ingredients found in relationship building. As I am sure you realize, I am not the inventor of the secret sauce, but I have been a student of the ingredient gathering and compilation that makes up the recipe and I have written a book on the subject. (Info below on getting a copy). Here are the 6 secret sauce ingredients for effective communication:
Focus on listening, not responding.
I have witnessed people that are so excited about adding their point to a conversation that they don't spend any time actually listening to the conversation. What's rather interesting, is often times their point will be made by the person they are communicating with if they just kept their mouth closed long enough.
Be open minded.
This world is an amazing place filled with differing opinions and points of view. Being open minded helps us expand to the world outside of our own bubble. As awesome as we know we are, great ideas will find their way to us if we remain open to the possibility that there are other opinions out there. Plus, it's a great way for people to get to see exactly how flexible we are. There is no such thing as a correct opinion. Facts can be right or wrong, opinions cannot.
When you show empathy, you become relatable and people will want to open up to you. In business, being empathetic provides an opportunity for you to prove you are a human being, capable of feelings and emotion. Let your competition provide facts, figures, features and benefits. There is plenty of time for business later, but for now, take your time and allow your customers to share stories. It's your chance to show interest, empathy and understanding.
Don't be so quick to resolve an issue
Maybe the person you are communicating with just wants a sounding board. Holding back a potential solution will be more challenging to my male readers than my female readers. Guys, don't jump in so fast and fix the problem. There will be plenty of time later for problem solving, but only if asked. Right now, be available to lend an ear, be a partner in the conversation and stay out of the sleuthing business.
Realize it takes at least two to have a conversation and if you are on your cell, texting and doing any number of other distracting things, you are being disrespectful. Also, realize that a phone buzzing on a tabletop, pocket or purse is almost as bad. I turned the vibrate and ring features off a few years ago, and I would challenge you to do the same.
Provide feedback if asked
Here is your chance to insert your humble opinion or provide the facts. Fair warning, all of the good that you have done by being present, empathetic, open minded and focused can become unraveled if you make the person you are talking to feel like an idiot by providing harsh or negative feedback. Be sensitive when providing feedback. Even if you know they have their facts wrong, it's ok. You were wrong a few times in your life. Help them find the facts and be understanding in the process. We've all been there.
There is a direct correlation between effective communication and building meaningful relationships.
So, now that you have the secret recipe, what will you do differently? For some of you, it may be a matter of silencing your cell phone and turning off the vibrate feature. For others it may be a matter of focusing a bit more. I'd love to hear from you. What are some of your secret sauce ingredients?
Author's note: I wrote Nice Guys Finish First, available now on Amazon as a paperback. Kindle version will be released Sunday March 15. The book is ranked as a #1 Best Seller in the business category of Communication.