The Ins and Outs of Direct Communication With Your Business Partners, Employees and Clients
Communication can be difficult under any circumstance, but it can be even tougher when there is frustration, anger or anxiety in place because business relationships, goals, or investments are at stake. Fortunately there are some skills that can help you succeed in communication, thus helping to ensure success in all of your business relationships.
Because it is sometimes too hard or to scary to be direct, we often find ourselves saying things to our business partners or clients that are not quite what we mean, only to end up feeling more frustrated, and deeper in the hole, when things continue as they have been. Eventually this kind of situation can lead to an implosion.
We are all guilty of it: the passive aggressive communiqué that was meant to get the message across without being offensive.
Being direct is a skill set that anyone can develop and master. Here are a few tips to help you get clear with those you work with:
Communicate in real time.
Don’t let things fester and build. When you are feeling less than satisfied with a situation, or simply want to make a change, bring it up immediately. When you let things sit, they inevitably come up at time when you are either losing it over something else or you are too upset to handle your communication with tact.
Here is a good example: I once had a client who started our working relationship by being consistently late for meetings and appointments. Rather than letting it go on, my anger and frustration building at the lack of his respect or concern for my time, I said (on the 3rd such incidence), “Hey, before we start today, I just want to clear the air about something. It’s really important to me that you are on time and when you are not I’m thrown off and unable to take care of you or my other clients to the best of my ability. I don’t want to come across as demanding or a pain, and I’m not trying to make you feel bad, but moving forward I’d love for you to be on time. Is that cool?” He agreed and we went on to have a productive meeting that day. We still work together and he is always on time for meetings now.
Own your experience, your responsibility, and your feelings; don’t blame or take another’s character inventory in the process.
When you are feeling frustrated about a situation, take a step back and ask yourself if you have communicated your expectations clearly. And, when you do communicate your expectations (as is your responsibility), simply state what they are without making the other person feel as though they are wrong in some way.
Sometimes when we feel that someone else is stepping on our toes, they may not even realize there is a problem. “Well, it is just common sense!” you may think. Not necessarily. As difficult as it is for us to wrap our head around sometimes, not everyone thinks exactly the same way we do. What is perfectly acceptable to you may be completely out of line for someone else, and vice versa.
When you communicate your feelings and your expectations about what you’d like to see happen moving forward, the other person is not put on the defensive and your working relationship will benefit from that.
Say what you mean in a direct and compassionate way.
Being direct is not something that comes naturally to all of us, and even if it does, we are all guilty of sugar coating our communications at times to avoid discomfort. When we do that, we risk being misunderstood, thus leaving us feeling unheard and frustrated.
Even if blanketing our missive in humor, we end up sounding facetious at best; sarcastic at worst, which could potentially damage the relationship beyond repair.
Going back to my earlier example, if I had said something like “ wouldn’t it be great if we could all be on time?” my client might have been deeply offended.
Likewise, had I looked at my watch and said something like, “Goodness, I hope we will have time to get through our agenda today” he may have just blithely reassured me or worse, ignored the fact that I may have more on my schedule for the day (I did) and dragged the meeting along to its finish well beyond what I had time for.
It can be helpful to write out or say aloud what you would like to get across- especially if you are feeling angry. Give it your all in the unedited version and really get all that frustration and irritation out of your system. Then, clean it up and deliver an edited, gentle, but clear and firm version of your expectations and needs.
The bottom line: don’t say “we” when you mean “you”, don’t joke or be sarcastic, and be clear as well as kind.
Make it safe and easy for others to be direct with you.
There are a few good ways to help your clients, partners, and business associates feel comfortable with giving it to you straight:
Let them know you are open to their ideas, and don’t take it personally if those don’t coincide with your own.
Be open to constructive criticism.
Don’t jump to conclusions about what other people mean if you’re not sure you understand. Ask.
Give people an easy out when you ask them to do something or make a suggestion; avoid making people feel pressured or obligated. A good way to do this is by saying something like, “I’m totally fine with your decision either way.”
With these strategies in place for direct communication, you will find that your business relationships will become stronger and more enriched; you will save time, frustrations will be fewer, and you will enhance both your personal growth and your business development.