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When we hear the word “no,” how many of us wander away from the conversation without really considering why we just heard that word? The word itself strikes fear among children and even as adults, it is sometimes easier to simply move on than to explore what “no” really means.
A brief conversation this morning reminded me that negative reactions are still engaged reactions.
We often hope that everything we do will be met with positive responses, but a much worse reaction to find is “apathy.” Apathy, by definition, is the “absence of emotion or enthusiasm.” At its core, it simply means that the listener doesn’t care one way or the other about what they are hearing.
We should want people to care. And, rather than discount our naysayers, we should be much more attentive when we find opposition. Consider some of the possible reasons why someone might say “no” to you:
- They can’t afford what you are selling,
- They don’t need what you are offering,
- They don’t understand the full impact or value of the initiative you are advancing,
- They might perceive there is a better alternative,
- They might be feeling that they don’t have a role in the solution,
- They might have priorities which are more important to them than the current proposal,
- They might not feel that anyone is listening to their concern, or
- They might need more information
Regardless of why a person says it, you have an opportunity to explore why with them and better understand their perspective or needs. Until the reason behind a person’s opposition is addressed, you will find it unlikely that they will support your project.
It is also important to never presume you know the reason why. People will give you clues or speak directly about their concerns. And, if you listen and seek to address those concerns in a positive manner, you might just find that person becomes your staunchest supporter because they will learn to trust that you will listen.
“No” shouldn’t be a scary word, but rather is your biggest clue that you might just need to “listen up.”
When I meet people, I’ll often say “tell me who you are.” It’s a great conversation-starter and gives me a very quick look into a person’s passions, values and what motivates them uniquely from everyone else.
It’s a question that applies to both individuals and businesses, particularly when developing a communication strategy. If an organization does not know who they are, they will struggle to define what they are seeking to communicate with their audience.
And while I’m quick to ask this question at the beginning of most relationships, I’ve realized recently that it is a question that becomes harder to ask as relationships develop and yet, is at the very core of some struggles and heartache relating to mission and future organizational directions.
We live our values both consciously and unconsciously in just about everything we do. How we prioritize, how we act, who we engage with and how much we share speaks volumes about what is important to us.
Does the man or woman in your mirror reflect the values you authentically aim to live? If you aren’t sure, step through the following set of questions:
- What values are important to you or your business? Brainstorm a list of 3-4 key words that you wish to be reflective of your life or your organization.
- When people think of you or your company, what do you want them to remember about you?
- Do your current behaviors or company’s reputation illustrate those values?
- Is how you or your organization currently engages with others authentic or a shell of what you want people to see?
Ultimately, who are you?
If you can answer this question in a reflective and sincere manner, a number of answers will become crystal clear about your path, your communication strategy and your future.
Over the past few days, a widespread meme has taken over a number of profile pictures on Facebook. And while seemingly harmless enough, it made me angry.
People changed their profile pictures to cartoon characters in order to “raise awareness of child abuse.” My struggle with this action, and most of the internet-based meme’s, is that people follow along and never question whether their action actually positively contributes to the cause it is associated with.
The truth is that victims ever only manage their pain. Pain is stuffed into the crevices of time and space in an attempt to feel normal. But certain experiences, sights, smells, words or memories will bring the pain quickly back to the surface as if the original situation had just occurred.
As a community, we struggle with victimization and do our best to ignore it. At our best, we join causes, contribute time and money towards agencies and organizations that are working hard to solve the “issues.” But sometimes we join causes, like the Facebook meme, without really considering whether it will even have an impact.
Now, hopefully this meme was harmless, but let me ask you a few questions:
- How would you feel if a victim of abuse felt that this “cause” trivialized their abuse?
- What if a child perceives that adults are making fun of abuse issues?
- What if a victim saw their abuser with a cartoon avatar on Facebook along with other people he or she thought they could trust?
- What if a cartoon character triggered the pain of being a victim all over again?
Now, I know I will hear from people who tell me to simply lighten up and that this was a fun weekend for changing profile pictures. But the reality is that 5 children die every day as a result of child abuse. It is important that we take action to eliminate the cultural silence that surrounds being a victim.
It has to be okay to feel pain.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 12:15 which says “Rejoice with them that rejoice and weep with them who weep.”
How much good could have been done this weekend if the Facebook Meme had encouraged adults to stand out and identify themselves as victims of abuse? In an open conversation on Twitter this afternoon about this very topic, I shared that I was a victim. Since that conversation, 3 others have stepped forward to chat privately with me about their personal pain.
I wonder how many people with cartoon avatars received similar outreach.
I sit in a lot of briefings as an audience member and I am always intrigued at the level of information that the speaker presumes the audience member has.
The more detailed or technology-focused the initiative is, the more prone the speaker seems to be to make bad assumptions of their audience.
I’ll never forget observing a 20-minute briefing about Yahoo Pipes and how to use real-simple syndication to develop a personalized stream of incoming data. And after the detailed briefing, the first question asked was “what is an RSS feed?”
Most audiences include people with varying types of technical ability. Those with significant technical expertise are often so close to their subject matter that they lose sight of some of the most obvious questions that those who have never touched the topic area may seriously be struggling with.
It’s not enough to provide all of the narrative data to support your topic area. The information shared must be transmitted in a way that is simple, clear and easily understood to someone who doesn’t study your topic all day long.
Effective use of the following tools are key:
- One-page summaries with diagrams or pictures
- Brochures to explain process, user tips or lessons learned
- Short video clips
- Questions posed to elicit answers from audience members
As an emergency manager, I deal with many different topics in a day. I can literally have back-to-back meetings all day long on everything from flooding to terrorism. The beauty of my job is that it is very diverse, but the tragedy of my job is that I don’t ever get to delve into a topic very deeply. It is often people in positions like mine who are called upon to make key investments or policy-level decisions that can influence the way a government and community operates.
Today’s lesson: If you are a presenter, be mindful of your proximity to the subject matter. And remember, the further away an audience member is from the topic under discussion in their daily world, the more simple the presentation must be.
Which is why, at the end of the day, I say “kiss me.”
I hate it.
There is nothing that will make me run faster from a conversation than when I realize that I’m being “pitched” something. The truth of the matter is if I’m looking for a product or service, I will reach out and conduct a search of the marketplace.
Here are a couple of rules of thumb that I use when searching:
- Who do I trust to give me a good referral?
- Who do my friends trust based on their experiences?
- Who listens to me when I describe my needs?
- Who will tell me they AREN’T the right person for the job?
All to often, I encounter salespeople who are stuck in the following habits…
- Enter into business-conversation immediately: Hint: Telling me that you think we have “relationship potential” in the first email or message is an instant turn-off. Just like any good dating scenario, that’s like saying “I love you” way before it’s time.
- Don’t listen to a word I have to say: Some people, like me, are pretty transparent. It helps to do just a little research about who you are reaching out to. One funny conversations I had recently involved a vendor who believed I was the director of animal control services. And, despite my repeated denials, insisted I needed some pet-sheltering supplies.
- Don’t have a clue what my needs are: There are many reasons why people might initiate conversation with you. And, often, it will have NOTHING to do with the business you are in. Remember, you risk losing my interest as soon as your reply makes your business the answer to every question that I ask.
Here are a couple of tips from someone who hates feeling like a sales target:
- Be visible in the online marketplace: If you have a good service or product, be able to be found easily.
- Listen to people: You might be surprised at how much people will share when you take the focus off your business and listen to what other people are saying or are talking about.
- Be authentic: Communication is a 2-way street. Ask yourself, am I always talking about my business? A real relationship is never solely about business. Someone who truly cares about a long-term client will get to know more than their just their paper needs.
All I ask is that we be real with each other. Replace the “Always Be Closing” letters of salesmanship with “Assess, Build Relationships, and Care” and you’ll be so much closer to having some of the most loyal customers on the planet.