“My client doesn’t respect me!” my colleague vented through the phone.
It’s a feeling every entrepreneur has felt at one point or another in their career. It’s one I certainly empathize with.
As I listened, it became clear that the client wasn’t being disrespectful. The two parties simply had disconnection in their communication styles, coupled with the different values that motivated each individual.
This created friction in how they worked together to reach their goal.
While there was more at play in this situation, we were able to walk through her values, along with her client’s presumed values, and come to a productive path forward. It resulted in connection to each other and the larger goal and purpose. This came from asking three questions:
Is it a value or style disconnection?
Most business owners I know don’t purposely go out of their way to disrespect people they’re working with. That’s fairly safe to assume as a starting point. If disrespect isn’t the purpose or intent of a communication, then what is its purpose?
As Martha Beck said, “the way we do anything is the way we do everything.” This includes the way we communicate with each other.
My colleague is an eloquent wordsmith who ensures everyone feels included and heard, while having all the details at their fingertips. Her client is direct and to the point with minimal social niceties. Neither is wrong but they give and receive information differently.
When we’re able to hear what someone is saying through their communication style, we can connect with what they’re saying in a more meaningful manner. The assumed disrespectful tone is muted or eliminated.
What’s the larger goal?
Ego and validation can get in the way of reaching a joint goal. The “what’s in it for me” disconnected culture Johann Hari identifies in Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – And the Unexpected Solutions is how many of us take in information when we first open an email or listen to a voicemail.
This inability to breathe before assuming disrespect can happen when we’ve lost the ability to connect beyond what Hari calls “junk values.” These values are centered around possession, fame and material wealth. We’ve become so inundated with junk values to model ourselves upon that one of our basic human needs – connection – is overlooked when listening.
By taking a step back to remind ourselves of the larger goal, we’re able to dive into the actual context of the message.
We strip away the need to always be seen, to be right, to be the influencer with the best solution, and replace it by looking for the heart – the person in the message and their concerns, worries, insights, values and so much more. We look even in short, non-descriptive responses.
In stepping out of the initial emotion reaction, we connect with the person and the larger goal of what we’re trying to accomplish.
Are values connecting or disconnecting us?
Having and operating from different values isn’t a bad thing. In this instance, my colleague’s and her client’s underlying values connected them to their larger goal.
This isn’t always the case.
Values between businesses may misalign, which can result in disagreement on how to take action towards a goal. Ultimately, this results in no action or poorly, bitterly executed action.
If this is the case, then it’s not necessarily a matter of disrespect. It’s a matter of differing values. This is something that’s harder to navigate through than communication styles as it goes to the heart of a company or person.
Understanding an alignment in values often produces greater action, commitment and results. If values are misaligned, productively moving forward together becomes next to impossible. If this is the case, then the relationship can – and should – be changed in order to have impact.
Assuming disrespect happens and can harm relationships. The next time a client is seemingly disrespectful, ask the questions I’ve just outlined. It’s the ability to ask a question that helps entrepreneurs to move forward with clients through more aligned action.
What values are keeping you from communicating with your ideal client? Share your insights and questions with Lindsay. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Lindsay Harle-Kadatz is a brand and content strategist supporting small businesses in the mental wellness of their business brand. Follow Lindsay on LinkedIn & Instagram.
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