In a professional relationship, there are certain things you can control for: your knowledge of the product, the questions you will ask, the feedback you will give someone, etc.
But there is also something that you can't control for: natural connection. Sometimes you immediately click with someone, and other times, well, you don't. Just because there's no natural spark between you and the person you are working with, communication does not have to suffer or appear fake.
So how do I set up a conversation for success?
Imagine being on a train.
You’re sitting in your seat; quietly reading a good book. You’re so engrossed that you don’t notice a father enter your carriage with his three children.
Let’s say the kids are turbulent (let’s keep it polite!), and they’re running around the carriage screaming. One of them even bumps into you, making you drop your book.
You’re upset and decide to speak to the father: "I understand that it’s hard to handle three children, but they are being very loud!"
The father looks at you with sad eyes explaining that they went to see a family member in the hospital earlier that day. Now that they’re out of the hospital, they’re a bit shaken up and over-excited.
Hearing this, you immediately regret what you said, half apologizing to the father as you return to your seat.
Why this sudden change of behavior? What changed?
Your perception of the situation. You received new information about the father's life, which caused you to evaluate the situation differently.
So when two different people, with two different perceptual filters, approach the same situation, this can lead to a misunderstanding or a miscommunication.
To help avoid miscommunication, we can practice empathy.
While you may not click with the other person right off the bat, practicing empathy will ensure a smoother and more pleasant interaction.
The following video explains the notion of miscommunication in further detail!
Look For the Positives
See, many people naturally focus and dwell on negative experiences before positive ones. We give more weight to what goes wrong instead of what goes right. This is called the negativity bias.
The other thing is that most people have confirmation bias. They check to see if others agree with their first impression.
Suppose your first impression of a person is bad. In that case, you will try to identify as many details as possible that confirm this hypothesis, failing to see specific facts and overlooking the person’s positive character traits.
So if I don't feel a spark with someone, chances are I am are going focus on the negatives and look for clues that confirm my first impression? Ouch....
I know, but luckily we can fight these natural biases! Here are 3 tricks I use:
Identify at least five positive things about the person before interacting with them. That will start the conversation on the right foot!
Think about what you may be able to take away from the conversation. This will help you ask more questions and become more engaged in the discussion.
Think about the wider implication of the conversation. Will your interaction help other people? If so, it will give you greater motivation to make it work!
Show That You Care
You have already seen that perspective influences communication and the relationship. The other person interprets every signal on both a conscious and subconscious level.
The CNRS (the French National Institute for Statistics) states that 90% of mental operations are subconscious. People can pick up on very subtle messages, such as tone of voice or body language, whether they mean to or not!
Given that it’s impossible to control all of these details, you should try to focus on just some of the most important ones:
Being on time: punctuality shows your contact that you are a person who sets an example and can be trusted.
Speaking politely: this creates an image of you as someone who respects others and can adapt your speech to the other person.
Spelling and grammar also send out a picture of someone who is respectful and pays attention to the finer details of the relationship.
Over to You Now!
List three people you are struggling to make things click with and write down five positive things about them, helping you change your perception of the relationship. Write your answers in your workbook.
Your bias can have a direct influence on how you communicate.
Preparing to have a more positive attitude can help improve your relationships.
You should pay attention to certain details such as punctuality, body language, and spelling that impact the image your contacts have of you.
You have seen that you can overcome your natural biases to make your relationships more positive and fluid. In the next chapter, we will look at active listening and how to ask the right questions.