You made the call and covered your key points. And walked away feeling good about yourself. Because you meant to accomplish that task and succeeded at it. Now, it's on to the next. And you move on, oblivious to the opportunity you missed to really connect with the other person.
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The scenario above occurs every day in too many organizations. And it happens irrespective of whether its due to the frenetic pace with which people operate in their quest to be productive or because there's a lack of appreciation for the benefits they can receive from communicating effectively. The fact is too many interactions involve the mechanics but lack the magnificence that is possible when attentiveness is included.
Here's a case in point. A colleague called me recently to find out how I was doing. He was taking a positive step toward nurturing our relationship. That's commendable. As we talked, he asked me to "hold for a moment" while he attended to some other matter. To his credit, that was a proper and polite gesture. To my dismay, however, that request was made by him three times over the course of the next three minutes. And within that same period, I heard him mumbling to himself as he repeated directions from his GPS in the car. As I waited in silence to allow for him to focus, he returned to the call and proceeded to ask if I was still there. Because of the silence that existed at my end of the call. Over the next thirty seconds, he talked to someone else who was in the car, asking the person about directions. And then he summarily promised to call me later, said goodbye and ended the call.
The scenario I just described captures a behavior that had occurred previously in less extreme ways. Those five minutes that started with the laudable attempt to nurture a relationship ended with a relationship that is now tainted. Because it was a demonstration of inconsiderate and ineffective communication. And because it was a behavior that had occurred previously, had been addressed, but was still repeated. Here are a few lessons that are noteworthy from that encounter.
Be thoughtful: If you're like almost everyone I know, you've had the experience of driving to an event, sitting at your desk, or just simply taking a walk when you felt an acute urge to call a client, friend or colleague. On many occasions, I've found it both prudent and beneficial to act on that impulse. Because invariably it occurred on account of a brilliant idea, an activity that needed to be done by myself or the other party, or some burst of positive emotion that was worth transferring in the moment I felt it.
While all of these are great reasons to act on the impulse to call the other person, you must give thoughtful consideration to the facts and circumstances. Sometimes the conditions are just not ideal or appropriate, even when the urge to call is great. To forge ahead is to compromise the quality and effectiveness of the conversation, the perception others may have of you, and the strength of your relationship.
Be attentive and safe: If you find yourself driving and looking for directions on street signs or your GPS, it's usually not a good idea to call. You would be literally endangering your life and the life and property of others. It takes a fraction of a second for your response to be too slow to avoid an accident.
And while you may not admit it, driving safely requires a considerable amount of concentration and focus, energies and attention that are then not available for you to have anything more than a lighthearted or casual conversation. Anything that requires focus and attention should wait.
Be considerate: Allow yourself to entertain the idea that everyone is busy and needs to use their time productively. Maybe they're retired and may be perceived to have unlimited amounts of time to give to you. However, it's been my experience that retired folk, even more so than many actively employed professionals, have an acute appreciation for their time. Maybe it's because they are acutely aware at that stage in their lives of how finite it is.
Nonetheless, be mindful that others have pursuits that require time. They could range for work related tasks and projects for performing effectively to recreational activities for the purpose of relaxing and recharging. Of course, there are myriad household, personal and career activities and tasks that compete for the limited time available in any day.
If you would take time out to reflect on what constitutes a successful life for yourself, you'll recognize that it's tied inextricably to the manner in which you utilize your time and the time of others with whom you interact. You'll also realize that communication is integral to what you learn, share and do with and through others. And therefore, the attitudes and behaviors you bring to your communications will determine the nature of your relationships and the pace and extent of your success.
Renwick Brutus' career has spanned roles as research economist, investment advisor, entrepreneur and consultant. He holds an MBA from Fordham University and has been recognized for his outstanding achievement in sales and business leadership. Today, Renwick applies his unique blend of business strategy and interpersonal skills to help individuals prosper and companies grow. He owns multiple companies and is in great demand to consult with business leaders. Contact him by email and LinkedIn.