All hail the conversation. I love a good chat. Listening, talking. Finding out what people are up to, what’s on their mind, what’s bringing them joy and what’s bringing them down. Getting to know people.
Somedays it’s a brief exchange. Other times a long overdue deep and meaningful triggered by a ‘how are you, I know things have been tough?’ Sometimes a more transactional, ‘How was your weekend’ as we swap books read, films or box sets watched, places visited.
The thing is each of these conversations plays its part in building the relationship. Each exchange deepens my understanding of the other person, from what makes them tick to the things that keep them awake at night and the things that bring them joy.
And surely life in business isn’t so different because business is still about people, isn’t it? People connecting, building relationships, solving problems, helping the world to go round.
Why then is business communication so often reduced to schedules, platforms, and processes? Important yes, but not if it comes at the expense of developing a relationship with very people you’re communicating with.
The definitions of communication and conversation are spookily similar. Both feature the word exchange, as do the words person, people or individual. That’s because fundamentally it’s all about people sharing information, exchanging opinions, and swapping ideas.
Put the other person first
Whether you’re a one-man band, or a large corporate with employees and clients spread across the globe, forget the people you’re communicating with at your peril.
- Think conversation – not broadcast. You might meet a friend and think beforehand, I must tell them about the film I saw last night, because I think they’d love it. You’d mention it, sense their reaction, it might spark a thought about a film you might see together. It’s the same with your clients. Talk to them about what you’re doing but through the prism of their world. Be led by them and what’s interesting and important to them.
- How are you? It’s an obvious one, but it’s a question I suspect we overlook in our eagerness to talk about all the fantastic things we’ve been doing. But watch the eyes glaze over, it’s not about you. It’s about them. Ask them how they are and then really listen to them before you say anything else.
- If you know they’re facing challenges: Ask them about it and ask how you might be able to help. That might just be listening. It might be practical help, but you won’t know unless you ask and listen to the response.
Sometimes I think it’s too easy to get caught up in the how – social media, Word, PowerPoint, content plans and scheduling tools. We all do it and it’s with the best of intentions. But while we’re flitting from one App to another, we’re missing the big question, why are we writing?
Why are we putting our words and thoughts out there? What about the other person? I think Joe Moran makes a great point in First you write a sentence’:
“There is no virtue in volume, no benefit in bulk. The world has plenty of sentences already, so pause before you add to the pile. Most of us, when we write, march too quickly on to the next sentence. To write intelligibly is hard enough, so be sure you have done that first. Fix your sights on making one, sane, sound, serviceable sentence.”