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Communication Is Not A 4-Letter Word

Feb 10, 2008
What four letter words do we mean? Here are a few:
Talk
Chat
Tell
Blab

Let's look at 'talk' as an example. If I asked you, you could all talk about almost anything at a moment's notice. In the computer in our brain, we have lots of programs--what we think, what we feel or believe about anything, even things we know absolutely nothing about! And we can go on and on about any topic. That is the good news. However, the bad news is that this is what people call communication--and it's only talk (or chat or blab, etc.).

Poor communication is the most frequently reported single major source of frustration in companies today. What is communication? Simply, communication is threefold. It means that a message was sent, that it was received, and that it was understood.

Experts say that we spend approximately 80% of each day communicating, as follows:

7% words
38% tone of voice and
55% physiology or body language

Since you are not always face to face with customers, the first two are most important. Your inflection and tone of voice are more impactful than the words. The positive and negative impressions of what you say, and how you say what you say, are more exaggerated. Therefore, you need to learn to control your tone, your tempo, and volume.

Make no mistake, body language can be heard over the phone. Suppose you are slouching, I bet your voice is very different than when you are sitting up straight. Also, we all know that a smile can easily be heard over the phone.

The good news is that communication is a learned behavior. If you learned negative patterns, you can release them and replace them with positive ones.

To me communication and listening go hand in hand. We all think we know how to listen, don't we? The fact is that very few people truly know how to listen. In our earnestness to serve we get pulled out of a conversation by preparing for the answer while the other person is still talking. We wait for a pause and when the person takes a breath, we jump in to take them where we think they want to go, to improve or remedy the situation, but the truth is if we are not listening to what they are saying we won't even know the question or request, let alone the answer.
Our intentions are good. We want to give the best response we can, hopefully the right answer. However, if we are not present to the conversation, the other person feels not heard, unimportant, ripped off and the like.

Listening is a respectful act. We have two ears and one mouth. Is this a coincidence? Is there a lesson here? For those of you who do anagrams, Listen = silent.

While it is true you cannot control how the customer (or anyone) speaks to you, you can control your own response to that person, and thereby greatly influence the course and outcome of any conversation.
About the Author
ROSANNE D'AUSILIO, Ph.D., customer service expert, provides needs analyses, customer service training; authors Wake Up Your Call Center,Customer Service & the Human Experience,Lay Your Cards on the Table,How to Kick Your Customer Service Up A Notch; a tips newsletter at http://www.HumanTechTips.com
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