What kinds of conversations do you have regularly in a typical day? Chances are they break down into three very specific categories:
1) Managing Transactions
2) Developing Relationships
3) Handling Crises
So think about it… Who did you talk to earlier today? What about yesterday? What kinds of things were discussed? It is important to make every conversation count. Our social networks, the people we interact with, create opportunities for us. It makes sense to interact effectively with those around us. These interactions can happen through email, snail mail, texts, tweets, or by chatting with people. In all cases, be aware of the three typical types of conversations: managing transactions, developing relationships, and handling crises.
When you respond to questions such as, “Did you….” or “Why didn’t you….” or “When will you…” or even, “How would you…” you are communicating by Managing Transactions. When these queries come in via email, I often go to my email Sent list to see if there is anything in that list I can use to move this transaction along. Frequently the issue under question has come up before and I can take a previous message response, re-shape it for this person, and send it along. Re-using what I’ve already written saves me time, something of which we never have enough. Plus I’ve found the best way to Manage Transactions is using email effectively.
Another way to Manage Transactions occurs when you need information and someone else has it. Often you can save time by going directly to the source, if that is an option. In that case you are getting in touch because you want to ask a specific person something about which they know best. This type of conversation tends to be very content-specific and is often action-rich as well.
When you are responding to questions such as, “How are you?” or “What’s exciting to you these days?” or “What have you learned lately”… your interactions are Developing Relationships. Our social networks are important parts of our lives and deserve to be respected as such. When you receive such queries through email, respond as soon as you can to let that person know you received their query. If you do not have time to respond within that message, be sure to let the person who contacted you know when they can expect a response. For example, when I am traveling I have an auto responder that tells people I am on the road and will get back to them within the next 5 days. Make sure you note the need to respond to their message in your tickler system so it does not slip through the cracks. If someone cares about you enough to ask how you are doing, they certainly deserve a thoughtful response. While email can work for these, often a phone call or maybe a handwritten note can lend a very personal touch as well.
Communications that revolve around Handling Crises are pretty self-evident. “How will we deal with this situation…?” or “What are we going to do now that….?” When people approach you with these topics, meet them where they are by listening to their concern. Often determining a solution to a sudden or long-term challenge frequently comes down to identifying the perspective of the concerned person and then examining other perspectives. Of course, the more trust and understanding there is between the conversing parties, the easier it is to manage the crises and challenges as they come up. If you can be with the person dealing with a crisis, it often makes the resolution much easier. Dealing with charged topics often goes more smoothly when you can look at each other eye-to-eye.
So next time you are communicating with someone, make that conversation count by knowing if you are managing a transaction, developing a relationship, or dealing with a crisis. The people around us are an important resource to helping us create business success, and life balance. Communicate with them wisely.