Communication….who knew You were right in the middle of it? It is something we do every single day practically. Unfortunately, sometimes we are operating at such a rapid fire pace that we have no clue what we have communicated to others. Quite frankly we don’t have any idea what others are trying to communicate to us. As we all know, real communication is a two way street, however what I would like to focus on is something I have been giving a lot of thought to the last several weeks. That is not so much what we are communicating but how we communicate with others. Some of these how to’s seem obvious, and maybe it’s because, as Southerners, we do try to take time to smell the gardenias. But, all of these bear repeating and committing to memory as we navigate through our busy professional and personal lives. Interestingly enough, I believe, if we focus on how we communicate, it makes it much easier for others to accept what we are communicating and allows us to better receive what they communicate back to us in return.
As an attorney for creative entrepreneurs, it has been my experience than many folks have preconceived notions and stereotypes in their minds of how I am supposed to act. One of my favorite things to do is to shatter that idea (and I mean that in a good way). Here is what I am working toward practicing each day to get the best and the most out of my clients. I think this certainly translates, though, for any business owner.
1. Ask Open Ended Questions
In my line of work there are two types of questions, there are open ended questions and leading questions. Both are used for very different purposes. Leading questions are used when we are interrogating someone– when we are leading the person being questioned to the answer with which we would like them to respond. This is usually simply a yes or a no. For instance, “You waited till the last minute before we were about to leave to go out of town for two weeks to clean your room, so that you wouldn’t have to do it very well, didn’t you?” (I’m sure I am the only mother who’s ever asked their child this leading question, right?). Anyway, open ended questions are the opposite, really. They are what we ask when we really want to know about something or someone. The best way to train yourself to ask open ended questions is to think–who, what, when, where, why, and how. By asking questions with these in mind, you will elicit responses that go beyond the general information that we so quickly accept as quite sufficient. A warning, though, asking open ended questions, requires patience and listening abilities. When you ask open ended questions, you must be prepared to fully take in the response. By not only asking open ended questions are you communicating a genuine interest, but by listening intently you are demonstrating that care to know the answer.
2. Make Eye Contact
Oh goodness! There is nothing worse than trying to talk to someone who will not make eye contact. I can never tell if they super shy, just aren’t interested, or if they are too busy for me, or if they think some how they are better than me. In any event, none of those perceptions are what we want to leave our customers thinking. I always tell my children, “No one likes talking to the top of someone’s head–so look up!” Making eye contact allows you to connect with another person, so don’t avoid it–embrace it!
3. Be Aware of What you are Communicating in a Nonverbal Way
It has been said that 93% of what we communicate is through nonverbal means. If that is true, then the saying, “You’re actions speak so loud, I can hardly hear what you are saying,” is more than just something my daddy used to tell me at the dinner table! Do you stand with your arms crossed? Or at a distance? You know what I mean…when the only thing that says we are listening is our ears; everything else about our presence screams “I’d rather be doing dishes!” That’s not a good thing! Instead, lean into the conversation. When appropriate shake hands, or hug. The power of a gentle gesture can make all of the difference.
4. Above all Else, Be Gracious.
Have you ever been around a client or customer who is just all about themselves? Or better yet since we are focusing on how we operate as business owners, have you been around a business owner that is really just so impressed with themselves that they don’t have time for you, the customer? How does that make you feel? Sort of like our friend from Chicago, Mr. Cellophane? Yes, well, there is a way to combat this. Stop. Take a few seconds to notice who you are speaking with. What does their face say? Are they relaxed? Are they all out of kilter? Do they need a cup of coffee or better yet a glass of wine? If being gracious is defined as one who is filled with grace or shows grace, then do it. Don’t be quick to judge; slow down and take a minute to love. Whether we are operating a creative business from our homes or a multinational conglomerate, none of it means anything if we don’t take time to love on others.
The bottom line really is, practicing these four tips, you are taking control of how you communicate with others. By doing so, you will be amazed at what you receive in return and how others are blessed by your communication with them.