Most writers would tell you that the hardest part of writing is actually getting started, and I am no exception. When I have a deadline and absolutely have to write an article, it’s astonishing to me how many chores I can think of that absolutely, positively HAVE to be done right then. And since my office is in my home, I am constantly surrounded by projects that scream to be done immediately! Like dusting the tops of the ceiling fans, or wallpapering the bathroom, or painting my dog’s toenails. You think I’m kidding. I wish I was…
But the other day, I broke through all the distractions, closed my office door, hunkered down and started writing an article that was due in two days. And it was going great. I was on a role. The ideas were flowing and the words were tumbling out. And then it happened.
The door to my office suddenly flew open and my husband popped his head in and abruptly said, “I need your help.” He then slammed the door and left.
Wait. What? Excuse me! I’m working here! I wouldn’t just burst into HIS workplace and yell, “I need your help” and walk away!” I actually debated whether or not to go see what he wanted, but, well, it did seem important.
Begrudgingly, I got up and followed him to where he was working on the other side of the house. And yes, I could see that he needed me to hold a doorframe in place while he secured it to the wall, so I did what he asked.
When he was finished, he flatly said, “Okay, thanks.”
I took a deep breath, calmly looked at him and said, “John, when you burst into my office and blurt out, ‘I need your help,’ and then abruptly leave, it’s extremely disruptive and feels inconsiderate to me. In the future, I need you to gently walk in the room and ask for what you need in a specific way. I need you to say, ‘Linda, I know you’re busy, but if it’s not too much trouble could you come now and help me with something? It’s important.’ If you do that, I’ll happily come help.”
He hesitated. He didn’t look happy, but after a long pause, he mumbled, “Okay.”
I returned to my office and, after much concentration, I finally got back on track. And then, believe it or not, it happened again.
Once again, he slammed into my office and curtly announced, “Okay. I can do that. I can ask you like that. But when YOU need MY help, there’s a particular way I want YOU to ask ME! I want you to walk into my office and immediately say, ‘I need your help.’ Period. If you start saying things like, ‘Honey, I know you’re busy, but when you get the chance, if it’s not too much trouble, if the stars are aligned correctly, I would really appreciate it and be forever in your debt if….’ it will make my head explode!”
I laughed out loud. And – I got it.
It wasn’t that either of us was right or wrong in our communication style, it was that we didn’t consider what the other person would want or need in order for us to get heard. Human beings simply communicate differently. And we would all be very well-served to find out what the preferred communication style is of the other person and adjust how we present our needs.
My suggestion is to really pay attention to how your customers, co-workers and employees communicate. If they are quick and to-the-point, match that style. Are they slower and more deliberate when they speak with you? Then slow down and be patient. Are they big picture people or do they want every detail in writing. Whatever their preferred style of communication, make a choice to adjust how you speak to them.
Doing this will help you connect better with others, it will make them feel heard and understood, it will make them like you, say yes to you, be easier to work with, give you their money, and be loyal to you for life.
Copyright 2018. Linda Larsen, CPAE Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker®