Most businesses start with an idea in a person’s head. Someone gets frustrated with something that they think should be better. For these ideas to become anything they first have to be released from the head of the person who has them. So we brainstorm, get into groups, drink beer and bounce ideas off each other in the early stages of businesses in order to form these into something more meaningful. We talk about design, manufacture, development, marketing, customers and their needs, the problems we are addressing. When you think about all of the talking that happens between a group of people to get even a simple business idea off the ground, the communication volumes are immense!
All the way through this process, we talk. We talk with suppliers, friends, potential customers, angry customers and hopefully excited investors! And it’s a natural way for us to receive and share information — most of us are actually quite good at talking. Often we supplement this verbal communication with other written forms of communication. Think email, a slack message, a note left on a desks or sometimes even a letter.
Sadly, this suite of tools often leaves people with too many choices about communication medium. When we write words on a screen it’s easy to communicate the purely rational points that we need to get across. If I need to tell you that the meeting we have is at 13:00 writing communicates this very well. We buy ourselves time and we can spend plenty of time thinking about how we want to get our message across.
But what are we losing in this process? What problems do we cause when we fail to first talk to someone?
When we talk to someone we exchange so much more than just words. Talking gives context to the content by allowing us to convey the emotion behind the words. In doing so we can get a much better picture than we will ever get through written words. We are also given the opportunity to alter our message as we go. I think it’s fair to say that we get more out of the people we are interacting with if we give ourselves the chance to talk to them first. As humans, we do this all the time, and we are actually very good at it!
If all we ever do is send email to our customers we are losing these key opportunities to remind the customer that we are a person. We lose the opportunity to talk about that sports match, the weather, how their business is going or whether they’re worried about a Trump presidency.
We lose the chance to empathise!
The core element of the business transaction we are trying to conduct is going to proceed in much the same way, but the strength of the relationship you can build without empathy is limited by this. Sure, talking isn’t always necessary but remember that our customers, suppliers, workmates and competitors are all just people. They’re humans who have the same needs and desires as us. Sometimes talking to them is going to give you so much more than just black and white information. They might even like you. “If they like you, they will listen to you. If they trust you, they will do business with you.” Zig Ziglar