Are You Using the Right Communication Method for the Right Client?
Tuesday April 4, 2023
Are you communicating with your clients and other business contacts in a way that maximizes connection and understanding?
I recently had two experiences that reminded me how important it is to do that.
One was with a client whose written communication style is somehow incompatible with mine.
We’ve learned the hard way that we can send email after email, but no matter how clear we think we’re being, something somehow still winds up being misunderstood.
And yet, when I gave up on email and called him on the phone, even though it didn’t didn’t seem to me like the content of our communication significantly changed, we were able to reach an understanding.
We’ve both agreed that, in the future, anytime our written communications spark confusion, we should have a verbal conversation about it rather than waste a bunch of time on a method that we’ve learned doesn’t work in our relationship.
The second incident went in completely the opposite direction.
At the end of a long work day, I commented to another member of my household that I’d like to have a discussion about division of labor. We were both worn out, and apparently the way I’d phrased it came across like I was judging them for supposedly not having done enough.
During the resulting argument, we both got tense and irritable, and both wound up feeling like our contributions to the household were being dismissed and invalidated.
We went our separate ways, still angry, and the conflict and resulting knot in my stomach ate at me so much that I decided I wasn’t willing to leave things as they were.
Instead of taking another shot at a communication method that clearly wasn’t working, I sent them a written message.
In that message, I told them I realized I’d come across like I didn’t value their contributions, and apologized for that.
I also clarified my intentions: I appreciated the contributions they made, and I wasn’t judging them, but was simply trying to gather data on how much work we were each already doing, so we could divide any additional chores based on that.
They responded with an apology, a clarification of their own intentions, and an explanation of the impact my words had had on them.
This led to a conversation about our respective challenges with scheduling and self-worth, my history of workaholism and my struggles not to feel guilty about taking time off, and some of their past experiences that influenced their feelings about work.
By the end of the conversation, all my anger had disappeared, and we both had a better understanding of ourselves, each other, and why that conversation had pushed our buttons so badly.
This is the power of being willing to apologize, and of switching to a mode of communication that worked better for our relationship.
How can you implement this?
In the future, I encourage you to ask new clients and business prospects: what is their preferred method of communication?
When you get their answer, don’t judge them for it. As the family member who gave me permission to share this story said:
“I think it would be a good thing if more people recognized their strengths in communication, and more so that it became normalized.
"I’ve known for a while I’m best at having hard conversations over a written medium, especially direct messaging, but it always felt like it would be seen as a ‘coward’s way out’ or immature. Hopefully people will take the advice to heart!”
Even after you start using their preferred communication method, be prepared to be flexible.
I normally communicate best through writing, but with the client I mentioned earlier, I have more success on live calls. So if you’re able to do so, please be willing to try something else if your current strategy isn’t a good fit for the relationship.
I hope that advice helps!
If you want more guidance on effectively communicating your value to potential clients and referral sources, I encourage you to check out the ebook I coauthored, Get More Referrals and Make More Sales: How to Get Your Referral Marketing Done For You, and Turn More Leads Into Paying Clients.