My customer complained to my supervisor that I answered the phone, “Yea. What’s up?”
I was told that if I wanted to move up in my organization, I had to get out of my office more.
How could she not know what an Ethernet cord is? When I finally said “the blue cord,” she got it!
Lately, I have worked with several people with outstanding technical skills whose career growth has been limited by their inability to connect with others. They were referred to me for coaching to provide them with the necessary skills to engage successfully with coworkers, bosses, customers, and clients.
People want to hire, work with, promote, and do business with individuals they know and like. If you were not born with the “gift of gab,” and many people weren't, you can learn the skills that enable you to connect with others.
Here are 7 suggestions that will help you to engage more easily with others in your workplace.
1. Do your homework. Knowing a little about topics that are important to your customers and colleagues will make it easier to make conversation. You don’t have to be an expert on every topic, but learn enough to allow you to participate. And convey interest in the person you are talking to through your body language. Look at him or her, and maintain a pleasant facial expression.
2. Be approachable. Some people have told me that they don’t want to be approached because people will ask them work questions. My response is twofold: You don’t have to answer every question asked of you. You can use a polite line to defer your response, such as, “I’m on my way to a meeting; please call or text me to schedule some time.” But if the question has a simple answer, why not help the person immediately? Chances are, the questioner will find you later anyway.
3. Remember “the blue cord.” You should use language that your colleagues or customers will understand. Using a technical word that someone doesn’t recognize can distance you from that person. Some people understand what to do if they are told to “Pull out the Ethernet cord” from amid a tangle of cables, for instance, but those who are less tech-savvy need simpler terms: “Pull out the blue cord.”
4. Keep your phone off the table when meeting with someone. Yes, you read that correctly. Having your phone visible tells the other person, “I am so ready to drop you and connect with someone else.” And some people put two phones on the table!
5. Don’t overload people with unnecessary information. Only give them as much data as they need. Some technical people believe that they have to impart all the facts, but their customers, colleagues, or bosses may have a lower threshold for details – and tune out once it is reached.
6. Learn to socialize. This is an important business skill. You get to meet people, and they get to meet you, which can benefit you in many ways. You may meet potential new customers, enhance your chances of promotion, or simply enjoy some new friends. Go up to people, greet them, shake hands, and make conversation. The more you do it, the easier it will get.
7. Call people. Don’t communicate via email and text exclusively. Calling people on the phone when appropriate creates a more personal connection. Also remember to sound pleasant and enthusiastic. When you answer the phone, be friendly. Say hello, give your name (“Gavin Jones speaking”), and, when appropriate, ask, “How may I help you?”
These are not the only ways to engage with others, but they are important ones. Additional suggestions can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (McGraw Hill, 2017).
As you go through your day, remind yourself of the value of connecting, and make a conscious effort to reach out. Soon these actions will become second nature to you.
Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com)