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lady-with-headache-listeningI’ve been writing about relationships recently and have heard from quite a few people who resonated with the thoughts. Relationships really are the backbone of not only business, but LIFE in general!

While I endorse seeking relationships as rule DAILY, there are some things that you should know about relationships. First, how you communicate in the different phases of a relationship is VERY important. Your skill can determine how long the relationship lasts. I’m not talking about marriage here. I’m talking about regular, every day relationships. Not understanding signals, cues and body language can be a killer. If you don’t understand those in person, then imagine how many grenades, land mines and stop signs you might be barging through in a phone or email conversation.

Let me give an example. I received a call recently from a fellow business owner. We had never spoken before. So, the purpose of this call was simply to get to know each other better and share how we contributed to the world. My phone rings, I say hello, and this person proceeds to jump right into telling me about their business, all that they had done, the companies they had worked with and why the world needed their product.

Except for the occasional ‘uh-huh’, I must admit that my mind trailed off about 3 minutes in. In conversations, I do my best to be present and not check other things while I am speaking (I don’t always succeed, but it is something that I am aware of and work at) This conversation was a battle of epic proportions. I wanted to say that my time was short but I couldn’t get a word in. We weren’t brainstorming. We weren’t problem solving. This person wasn’t helping my with an issue. They simply launched into how awesome they were and why everybody should think they were awesome. Oh by the way, did I mention that the person said that they were awesome?

I’m probably not going to do business with them any time soon. Truth is, they were actually fairly nice. They just got some of the nuances of relationship and conversation all wrong.

Here are 5 things they could have done in this conversation:

1. Clarified Time Expectations – The conversation could have begun this way:

Them: Hey Robert, how are you?

Me: Awesome. My kids are at school, I’m talking to you. Life is good (insert laugh here) How are you?

Them: I’m great. Listen, I know we booked some time here. Does 30 minutes still work for this?

Me: Yep. It’s on the calendar. Let’s rock. What can I do ya for?

2. Clarified what they knew about me – “So, Robert, I was checking out your blog the other day and saw that you posted something about coaching a small business owner. What type of small business owners do you work with?

This gives me a chance to let them in a bit and then they can follow up for some clarification if they choose.

3. Shared a story or quick anecdote about something I said – “That’s excellent, Robert. I actually had a business owner the other day tell me that they were so tired and getting pulled in 5 directions. I laughed and said they probably needed a coach. (insert chuckle here) I should probably introduce them to you (insert follow-up chuckle) (see post on being a connnector)

This shows they were listening but also connected with something that I said. Oh, by the way, here’s a quick hint. Make a practice of writing down some of the stories and things that happen in your business so that you can quickly pull from them in conversations without seeming like you are STRETCHING for something to say. Connections in conversations are like glue and they also give you permission to move a bit further.

[Tweet “Everything depends on relationships”]

4. Ask a question, shut up and listen – You probably sensed this from the first 3 tips, but showing interest in someone is a skill that you MUST acquire and develop. Let THEM ask you about you. You SHOULD be able to talk about yourself and you SHOULD be able to share the great things that you have done. You SHOULD even be able to talk about the awesome projects you have been on, the great results that you have helped achieve, the great teams you have led. But, when you LEAD with how awesome you are, I honestly want to move to another conversation. Talking about how blue the sky is today might be an even more interesting entrance or segue.

You’ve probably heard that you have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason, correct? So, follow the formula. Ask questions, listen for clues and cues. Oh by the way, I’m married. This works AWESOMELY!!

5. Determine whether a follow-up is required – At the end of this conversation, this person threw out this gem, “Well, hey, if you know anyone that needs my services, just send ’em on over. I’d love to work with ’em and get ’em done right.”

Then they hung up. They didn’t seem concerned with whether I was actually interested in what they were saying. They didn’t try to set up a follow-up conversation. They didn’t set up a next step. What could they have done? Again, they could have asked a question like, “It was awesome talking to you Robert. Would it be ok if I emailed in a month just to see what you have going on?”

And now, the ball would have been in my court. I might have said no or let them know that I would be out of town. But, conversations like these shouldn’t be left on assumptions.

Am I Perfect? Are You Perfect?

As much as I am aware, I still commit conversation faux pas. But, my awareness leads me to seek improvement in the next conversation. The more you are aware, the more you can work on things and the more you can improve your conversations, your verbal and non-verbal communications, your leadership, and even your sales. Because, let’s face it, everything depends on relationships.


What suggestions do YOU have to improve conversations?  Leave your answers in the comments!

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