Friday, September 24, 2010

KeFactors Fridays: How Perception Becomes Reality

In a recent webcast, Linda Bishop made a point that’s often overlooked: Whatever you’re thinking about a client and their projects will inevitably seep through in your interactions with them. Clients can and will sense feelings such as (negative) judgment, condescension, cynicism, and resistance.


For starters, none of us is that good an actor. Our bodies are geared to disclose emotions with a variety of tiny signals—sometimes called “micro-inequities,” they can be as unsubtle as glancing at your watch while the client’s speaking, to a fleeting duck-and-dodge of eye contact when fibbing.

Second, most humans are good at detecting those signs. We may be unable to
articulate why someone made us uncomfortable, but from the cradle we’re very skilled in picking up non-verbal signals. It’s a facet of our basic survival instinct.

Third, you can keep your guard up and maintain a good façade some of the time, but when you’re busy and things are hitting the fan, it’s easy to lose control over that. If you think your client’s prone to terrible ideas, even a tiny pause over the phone or a slight crease around the mouth can convey a smirking, “That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard.”

So how do you get this under control? Understand that:
Your client’s reality is not your reality. They have their reasons. You’re there to solve problems with them, in which case your best judgment calls should be about the work and process, versus whether or not the customer’s a champion procrastinator.
You need to stay away from negative nellies. You know who they are. They’re the people in your workplace who live to complain—about the boss, their co-workers’ shoes, their spouses and children, Congress, the cost of cucumbers, and—inevitably—customers. Such people will deplete your batteries without affording new insights or improvements. Shut it down. You have better things to do.
All individuals and systems have some degree of dysfunction. Clients undergo periods of personal and professional crisis, of confusion and difficulty. If you can demonstrate big-hearted support—even for the reasons why they can no longer give you business—you’ll have earned their trust and respect.

No comments: