WordsWorking

Can cell phone courtesy morph into human communications?

You there, with the cell phone in your hand, you know who you are. You’re probably even reading this on that electronic device. Just so you know, July is Cell Phone Courtesy Month. Finish reading this, of course, but then show some courtesy and put it down!

 

Go find a real human and have a real conversation. You probably won’t have to look far. There might even be other humans right there in the room with you. Yeah, they have their heads buried in their cell phones too!

 

For the “older” people, GenXers and Boomers, this is not just a case of “kids today.” There was a time when we marveled at the young people sitting right next to each other, texting each other instead of engaging in actual human conversation, but the trend has definitely expanded to all generations.

 

Look around the conference room, the board room, even the meeting of two people across a desk, and you will find cell phones galore. Is anyone really paying attention to that presentation on the big screen? Probably not. They’re kind of busy with their own small screens.

 

So, back to Cell Phone Courtesy Month. The most courteous thing to do when in the presence of other human beings is to ditch the electronic device, at least while real people would like your actual attention. This, of course, is not Give Up Your Cell Phone Addiction Month. We’d just like a little courtesy.

 

If you don’t think it’s such a big deal, try looking around the next time you are in a restaurant, in a business meeting, or even walking in a park. What do you see? The tops of people’s heads, right? Their faces are buried in their virtual world and they are totally ignoring the real humans in their immediate space.

 

You might be pleasantly surprised when you try having a real conversation with a real human. There are no emojis involved, but you do get the pleasure of looking into a pair of real eyes and watching real body language as you talk. That’s a pretty cool new invention, don’t you think?

 

Put down the electronic device. Look up. Show some courtesy. Try it for a month. You might find you like it enough to form a new habit – human communications.

 

 

Does your team need help learning how to communicate with humans again? Email me at pat@words-working.net.

 

 

Are you using your words for good?

“We can each take the time to think about the words we are posting, to think about the real humans that will see and be affected by those words, before we hit the magical button that sends our words out into the world.”

 

Check out my Op-Ed piece, published in the News & Observer:

 

http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article153261469.html

 

 

Human communication means business

Everyone has a customer service story.

 

Everyone has a workplace communication story.

 

Everyone usually tells these stories in a negative light.

 

What can we do to change the stories to improve the business environment?

 

Very simply, we can remember that we are communicating with humans.

 

Technology has distracted us from the reality of doing business with real people. Or maybe we have become resentful that real people are distracting us from our technology?

 

We have become so dependent on electronic communication – texts, emails, tweets, and other forms of electronic, ephemeral messaging – that we forget there is an actual human on the other end.

 

We lose touch with the fact that our words impact others (and may actually have a longer shelf life than we intended). Maybe we even lose the ability to speak in person with another human being.

 

Let’s change those negative stories by temporarily putting down the cell phone, the tablet, or any other electronic device that we think we cannot live without – and having a real conversation with a real person.

 

When speaking with your customers, look them in the eye and watch their body language. Listen to their words. Respond to what they are saying to you. Your customers are not emojis or hash tags. They are real people who need a real person to listen and respond to their questions and needs.

 

Show clients some personalized appreciation by handwriting a thank you note and sending it in the real-life mail. How many people do that? You will impress your client not only by acknowledging them but by doing so in a way that is unique and special in today’s business environment.

 

When speaking with co-workers and employees, think about what kind of information they need to do their jobs, to further their careers, to improve the success of the business. They are not just names on an email distribution list. They are real humans, working to help your business grow.

 

It’s all quite simple. We change the tone of the story by changing the mode of the communication, as often as possible.

 

Your team members are humans. Your customers are humans. Use your human communication skills to make those stories positive again and improve your business environment!

 

Pat Fontana works with businesses to help your team members remember how to communicate as humans!

Business secret: Communicate often – and well

I didn’t know.

My manager didn’t tell me.

That’s the first I’ve heard of it.

That clerk was so rude. I’m never going back there again.

Those people don’t seem to talk to each other.

Sound familiar? Are people saying this in or about your business?

Communications can help or hurt your business. Poor – or no – communications actually can cost your business. Communications with customers are especially crucial, but even internal communications can significantly impact your business success.

Let’s start with the last couple of comments above. What are your customers / clients saying about your team members? Do you have a rude employee? Do you have employees who clearly want to be somewhere else, in the midst of a customer transaction?

I’ve seen fast food employees checking their cell phones as they were taking orders from customers. I’ve been on the receiving end of a very rude company representative who was obviously ready to go home when I expected a certain level of customer service toward the end of his work day. I’ve always had extremely pleasant exchanges with a clerk in a grocery store. Guess which business I will recommend to others and return to myself on a regular basis?

Internally, your employees may be repeating the first three comments above. Managers have their meetings and then go about their business without sharing vital information with their team. Individuals working on a project find it easier just to do the work alone, rather than involve co-workers. Front-line employees don’t get the information that is decided behind closed management doors.

I’ve worked in a corporate environment that was so stressful, we were standing in line hoping for our turn when the layoffs started. Most of the stress was caused by communication issues. There was virtually no downstream communication. Mistakes were made because people did not have the right information or, in some cases, any information.

Your secret to business success? Communicate with your customers / clients. Communicate internally. Do it often. Do it well. Misinterpretation can be just as harmful as no communication.

Write your emails so they are clearly understood, without a long chain of follow-up messages. Make a phone call to discuss things. Make meetings meaningful by providing actual information and answering questions.

Of course it will take some effort. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it!

Train your team members to understand what your customers / clients need to know and to learn how to provide that information to them on a regular basis.

Train your managers to consider what their team members need to know and to learn how to provide that information to them on a regular basis.

Communication can hurt or help your business. Clear, regular communication can be the secret to your business demise or to your business success.

 

Ready to train your team? Let’s talk.

pat@words-working.net

What are you striving to become?

If you are striving, is that actually a good thing? Wouldn’t it sound better to simply say you are doing?

For example, “We are striving to be the best in customer care” makes it seem like you’re trying really hard, but you’re just not quite there yet. Doesn’t it sound better to say “We provide the highest quality customer care”?

Striving is one of those meaningless, filler words. We like to use extra words like that even though they’re really not necessary and can sometimes backfire on us. Striving, if it has any meaning for the reader at all, gives off a negative image.

Sometimes we feel as though we have to ease into our words. How often do you read (or write), “I would like to tell you …”? Those are all words that can be deleted completely, leaving the meaning much stronger. Just come out and say what you have to say!

Deleting words is painful. We work so hard to put as many words as possible on a web page, in marketing materials, or in an email, that we don’t want to give up any of them. However, deleting meaningless words will give your message more meaning.

It is a sad fact that, in the 21st century business world, we are all too busy to read every word. We want to see only the words that carry significant impact all by themselves, without the crutches of modifiers.

Mark Twain said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”

To make your business writing stronger, all you have to do is delete the meaningless words – and the potentially harmful words.

Stop striving. Just do.

 

 

Here you go

Customer service. Remember that? It had something to do with communications.

Ah, right. Now I recall. There was a pleasant focus on manners, with “please” and “thank you” sprinkled throughout.

What do we get now? “Here you go.”

That’s it. That’s what they say.

“Here you go.”

They are, of course, the customer service representatives, the cashiers, the people who take your money, hand you a receipt, with a hearty . . . “Here you go.”

Or maybe not so hearty. Maybe it’s more like “I have a job that pays less than what I deserve and I’m just ready for my shift to be over so here you go.”

Don’t get me wrong. I feel for people who are not making what they should and who are in jobs that are nowhere near their career choice. However, regardless of what job they (we) do, they (we) need to put heart and manners into it.

Has customer service faded away, along with work ethic, workplace etiquette, and employee commitment? Are employees not taught the basics of thanking customers for their business? Have we just reached the point where we don’t care if we are appreciated by the particular establishment where we opted to spend our money?

There is probably a way to connect this to the short-attention span, immediate gratification, distracted-by-electronics society that we have become. But I digress ….

I choose to think people can do better. People can learn – or relearn – basic manners and etiquette.

And, truly, all hope is not lost. There are actually still people in business with decent customer communication skills. Where I prefer to spend my money on seafood, the employees behind the counter greet me, thank me, and even give me a big smile and a “see you next time!”

Awesome.

Employees can learn. Customers can be more appreciated. All it takes is an extra breath and another two words: “Here you go. Thank you!”

Try it. Let me know how it goes.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Positive communications, customer service, and business relationships are all developed from a base of respect. Think about it. If you don’t respect your clients, potential customers, vendors, or fellow business people, how will that affect your own business growth?

How do you show respect in your business relationships? Do you follow these guidelines?

Respond to messages, emails, text, and calls promptly. Replying promptly shows respect for the other person’s time and efforts in reaching out to you.

Engage in active discussions, in writing and verbally. Listen carefully, read every word, and provide thoughtful feedback.

Share details, as appropriate. Keeping others in the dark does not give you any more power; on the contrary, it denigrates any respect others may have had for you.

Put down the electronic device. Give your fully focused attention to others in the room during a discussion or meeting. Show respect by actively listening when others are speaking.

Enrich others with your knowledge. While initially this sounds a bit pompous, in reality when you are open to helping others learn what you already know, they will develop a respect for your giving nature and for your level of expertise.

Communicate clearly. Avoid jargon, clichés, and vague references that might not be readily understood. When you speak and write using simple words and clear, succinct terms, others respect you for your communication skills and for your consideration.

Think positive. Speak with a positive tone. Write with a positive focus. People respect professionals who are upbeat and who see possibilities.

Respect is earned. Show respect to others – consistently – and you will earn their respect in return. Your business will undoubtedly benefit as well.

Are your words working . . . for good?

Many of us have made New Year’s resolutions, which may or may not have already been broken. Here’s one more suggestion: try focusing on the positive in your written and spoken words.

There are a lot of clichés floating around this time of year, encouraging us to do good things. Be nice. Think of others. Be kind. They are nice thoughts, but a bit vague.

Most of us probably want to be better people. Even so, dictionary.com’s word of the year for 2016 was xenophobia. Basically, that means a fear of people we don’t know or who are foreign to us.

How do we overcome that fear and become better people at the same time? By using our words for good.

Instead of saying “I don’t trust that person because I don’t know her,” try “I would like to get to know that person so I can learn more about who she is and how we can help each other.”

Using our words to learn more about others can help us remove the barriers that create misunderstanding and mistrust. As business people, in particular, we need to use positive words when interacting with potential clients, with employees, with vendors, and with each other.

So here’s an experiment for you. During the next week, focus on your words. Do you automatically say something negative when someone does something you don’t like? Stop and think about how you can turn that around, into a positive.

For example, if a vendor is slow in delivering a product you ordered, try starting with the positive: “You have a successful business, which is wonderful, and I understand you may be overwhelmed with orders. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help the process go a little smoother.”

If an employee clearly needs some direction as she is not able to do her job up to your standards, try: “Sally, you are trying so hard and I appreciate that. How can I help you? Let’s work through this together.”

You may be amazed at the response you receive when you use your words for good.

Let me know how it goes!

We seriously need to talk

If we only took the time to communicate, how many problems could we solve?

Lately we’ve seen and heard a lot of yelling, a lot of misunderstanding, a lot of quick action without apparent thought or any attempt at true communication. If we all (and I do mean ALL) stopped for a few minutes or even a few seconds and had a real conversation with others, what could we accomplish?speech-bubble-1423322_1280

We have to put down our cell phones, at least long enough to look others in the eyes and to listen to what they are saying. We are so tied to our phones that our first response to anything is to text or tweet or videotape. Pure, instinctive reactions are not always helpful and can quite often be destructive. Let’s work on intentional positive action before incidents have a chance to arise and intensify:  Put down the electronic device and speak with others as humans.

Electronic devices have removed us from the reality of human communication. Nothing seems real, in real life. We can always delete our text or start the video game over. That’s not how it works in the human world. Words that come out of our mouths – in haste and in anger, especially – cannot be deleted or retracted. People that are hurt – or worse – cannot be revived if we restart the game.

How many problems could be solved – or prevented completely – with positive, constructive communication?

Try a new approach with business associates, with friends and family, and with strangers you encounter along your daily journey. Focus completely and totally on positive, constructive communication. Put down the phone and speak to the person in front of you. Listen when others speak. If you must send a text or an email (or write a post), think about how it will be perceived and used on the other end.

We still live in a human world. Communicate for good, for positive change, in your life and in the lives of others.

Let me know how it goes.

First, we must listen

When we think too much about what we are going to say next, we are not able to listen to what is being said to us.

Listening requires focused attention. While we may hear the noise of the words (think Charlie Brown and any adult), we don’t always listen to the words themselves. I have been told I’m a good listener. While I appreciate the compliment, I am as guilty as anyone of either drifting off and thinking of other things when someone else is speaking or preparing my response in my head rather than actually listening to what is being said to me.

We learn by listening. I have also been told I’m a very quiet person. (Yes, this probably surprises a few of my readers!) I developed a technique from my father, who was an incredibly smart man but who spoke very little . . . until he was ready. He sat quietly and soaked in information and then would actually talk your ear off about all he had learned. I can do that too!

Think about how many problems we could solve in business – and in society – just by listening. Not listening definitely leads to misunderstandings. “Oh, I thought I heard you say . . . .” by way of explanation when responding inappropriately. “I just don’t understand that person” when we haven’t really listened to what that person had to say.

What could we learn about others if we took just a few moments to stop thinking about what we are going to say – and focus on what they are saying?exchange-of-ideas-222787_1920

We could learn what our clients truly want and need from us.

We could learn more about people who don’t think their voice is being heard – and maybe build some unity in our communities.

We could learn why some people are struggling or unhappy, and be better able to help them solve their challenges.

We could even learn a little more about how others see us.

Listening may not solve all of the world’s problems, but it sure could be a giant step in the right direction.

 

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
–Winston Churchill