How to Avoid Stomping on Personal and Customer Relationships

“The power of the word is real whether or not you are conscious of it. Your own words are the bricks and mortar of the dreams you want to realize. Behind every word flows energy.” Sonia Choquette

One of the most profound powers we have, in our business or personal life, is the power of speech. The way we talk to people, and ourselves, shapes our relationships; and these relationships shape our world. 

When you speak to someone in a gentle, loving tone of voice, you will most likely receive a gentle, loving response, and build a relationship of caring and trust. When you talk to someone in a condescending manner, being sarcastic, hateful, or just plain nasty, you will probably get back the same.

I had an experience recently with the latter situation. I’m in the process of setting up a new blog in WordPress for Inner Clarity. I chose a web hosting company based on a recommendation from another coach. This whole blog scenario and its set-up is new to me, so I’ve been getting a lot of mental exercise learning about cpanel, Fantastico, and MySQL, etc. Sounds like a foreign language, doesn’t it?

I’ve been working my way through the steps of learning this new language, so I can create my blog, without much support except online documentation. When I had questions for my new web hosting company, I expected help, not ridicule. In the beginning they were somewhat helpful, but obviously irritated about my lack of experience. As time went on, and other issues came up, they became downright condescending in our email communications. Every day I dreaded having to contact them about any questions or concerns I might have encountered.

This whole situation came to a climactic end when I asked them to make a change in my domain name set-up. As a result of the change they made, I lost all the work I had already entered into WordPress. They didn’t inform me at any time that this was a possibility. Nonetheless, they managed to make it appear that the loss of data was my own fault, and had nothing to do with the changes they made.

It seemed that the words they used and the tone of their emails were geared towards making me feel inadequate and ignorant – and they succeeded! While their evaluation of my skill level, at that point, may have been accurate, that is certainly not the way to keep customers, not to mention get referrals. It became crystal clear that this was not a company I wanted to deal with on an ongoing basis, so I cancelled my account with them. My only regret is that I didn’t cancel it sooner!

What’s the point of this story? If you want to build a successful business, be aware of the impact your words have on your customers and the people who support you. If you’re trying to irritate your clients so they’ll move on, then the condescending, sarcastic words and tone of voice may be appropriate. But if you want to have happy customers and support people, you probably want to take a different tactic.

Here are 3 tips for choosing the right words to fit your situation.

1. Use the “positivity sandwich”. When you have a need to correct someone, express disappointment, or give feedback, use the “positivity sandwich”. This is a term coined by Dale Carnegie; author of the classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. This concept operates on the basic premise that you can tell anyone anything if you sandwich it between two positive statements.

When using the positivity sandwich, the ACT with Tact approach may be helpful. ACT is an acronym for Appreciate, Correct (or Communicate), and Thank. In the book by Linda Kavelin Popov, “A Pace of Grace”, she writes about the ACT with Tact approach for giving feedback about sensitive situations. Here’s an example.

My ex-web hosting company could have said something like, “I appreciate and understand you’re trying to learn something new. Why don’t you try doing it this way? We value your business”. Can you imagine what a different relationship we would have had!

2. Use the “Would you be willing” approach. When there’s something you want, but don’t quite know how to get it without offending the other person and starting an argument, try asking them “would you be willing to”. This is an approach used by Marshall Rosenburg, in his enlightening work on Nonviolent Communication. When you use this gentle approach to a sensitive situation, it shows you are caring and considerate of the other person’s feelings and whatever may be going on in their life. In this way, you can ask for what you want without criticizing, condemning, or complaining. Just be sure you’re using a tone of voice that says you’re being sincere in your request.

3. What do you say when you talk to yourself? You tend to show the world the feelings you have inside of you. If you’re being critical and condemning yourself on a regular basis, it’s tough to be in a state of graciousness to others. The solution to self-criticism is to catch yourself when that internal critic takes over, STOP it in its tracks, and instead look for things you have done right, things that you can appreciate about yourself. Elevate your negative self-talk to, “I know how to do this”, or “I’m clear about the next logical step to take”, or “I know I can figure out how to”, etc.

We all have our unique approaches to life. Just because your internal guidance led you to do something a particular way, and someone else did it differently, doesn’t mean you were wrong. It just means you’re different. We need different viewpoints and creations in this world. Be willing to give up the self-criticism and celebrate your uniqueness. Don’t get hung up on the “good opinion of others”. Here’s a wonderful quote that expresses the beauty of diversity.

“You don’t get harmony when everyone sings the same note.” – Doug Floyd

The power of your words, whether external or internal, shapes your world and carries over into your physical and emotional state of being. Your internal critic may be replaying those critical and condemning words you heard as a child. These are the words you came to believe because other people were describing you to you, and we tend to believe other people more than we believe ourselves, especially as a small child. You can learn to replace these hurtful words with words of love and support for yourself.

If you’re having a challenge in your life, whether it is health, finances, personal, or business; look to see if your words are supporting or hindering your progress towards your goals. You may find the answer to your challenges just by listening to what you say when you talk to yourself.

About the Author:Sandy Reed, Certified Life Coach, ex-corporate manager, and small business owner, is the coach to call for support when you’re ready to break out of the corporate prison, and create a life of freedom and flexibility. Visit her website at http://www.innercla ritylifecoaching .com for more tools and information and to sign-up for her free mini-e-course “7 Steps to Personal Power”.