How Communication Can Grow or Destroy Business Relations
Surely you have heard the song, Getting to Know You. Here’s a quick reminder of a few of the lyrics.
Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.
It’s well known as a show tune from the 1951 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I. And also for the 1956 film adaptation as Anna sings the song while striking up a warm and affectionate relationship with the children and the wives of the King of Siam. Versions of this song have been recorded by notables including Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, Nancy Wilson…and James Taylor!
Most successful selling relies on relationships. Most long term business relationships rely on authentic, trusted communication. Every human being can increase their effectiveness in this world by being a better communicator. It matters on the job, and certainly in the home.
A few years ago, my business leader friend John Blumberg worked with me in doing a series of presentations we called “Success On The High C’s.” Each session focused on a word in the work world that began with the letter “C”—such as character, competence, creativity, and so forth. Of course, a must in that series was “communication.” I was assigned that topic.
It’s easy to see how important this is to leading thinkers.
Author Richard Kipling said, “Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
Philosopher and scientist Joseph Priestly said, “The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.”
Motivational meister Dale Carnegie postulated, “When dealing with people remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”
Humorist Mark Twain observed, “There is nothing so annoying as to have two people talking, when you are busy interrupting.”
Looking back at my talk in that series, I thought I would share three critical observations about how communication impacts relationships. These three certainly apply to our most personal of relationships, but I believe they also create an environment in business for long term associations as well.
1. Without open communication there is no depth of relationship. Openness is really another way of saying transparency. Hidden agendas eventually are discovered. Healthy organizations function best where difficult matters can be discussed in an environment of trust.
2. With broken communication there is no growth of relationship. In the workplace and in the home, this is manifested by people who stop speaking or connecting with one another. The distance grows steadily. Something has happened and one of the parties may not even be aware of what changed. But it needs repair. Someone has to “man up” to fix it.
3. With hurtful communication there is a damaged relationship.In Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book Blink, he introduces many readers to the term “thin slicing.” This is the unique ability humans possess to diagnose a situation, almost intuitively, based on a combination of learning and experience. One of the most dramatic examples of how this works is the work of psychologist Dr. John Gottman. In his forty years of marital research, he can predict with remarkable accuracy whether a couple is likely to be divorced simply by watching their communication. And particularly, four types of hurtful communication. The four are: defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt. And the most dangerous of those is contempt. Whether in personal or business relationships, evidence of these responses to another person will breakdown a relationship over time.
On a broader level, people who learn to communicate effectively are of great value in any organization. Developed skills in this area reap rewards at any level.
Also in my talk, I quoted from an interview I had with Lynn Wilford Scarborough on her book, Characteristics of a Master Communicator—subtitled “Learning How to Talk Like Jesus.” Here are the ten things on her list. I’ve added my interpretation to these ten points. Good communicators are…
1. Relational. They find ways to connect through questions and discover the interests of others.
2. Bridge builders. Good negotiators understand this in particular. Progress is made first by establishing common ground.
3. Birthing the new on the past. Use things that have been learned and build something productive that encourages growth.
4. Establishing new truth. Many times, misunderstandings exist because of false assumptions. A new foundation of truth moves understanding forward.
5. Able to deliver fresh images and new vocabulary. Jesus did this with remarkable effectiveness through the use of parables and challenges to conventional thinking.
6. Focused and congruent. Keeping the main thing the main thing. And as importantly, not sending mixed messages.
7. Humble. The winning hand of communication often comes with self deprecating humor or a gracious reply.
8. Quotable. Finding a unique way to send a message will encourage others to repeat it.
9. Able to explain relational paradigm shifts. Sometimes a new leader brings a new language of change. Helping others see and understand the new approach builds loyalty.
10. Able to reproduce their values. Jesus spent just three years in the development of His twelve closest followers. They took His message when He left and it still resounds and inspires followers today.
For a clear example of Jesus’ communication style, read chapters 5, 6, and 7 in the book of Matthew from the Bible.
That will shift anybody’s paradigm.
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