Mastering the art of communication will exponentially improve your relationships in both your personal and professional worlds.  Take inventory of the major challenges and issues you face with the people in your life, and often, ineffective communication is the real culprit.  While there are numerous skillsets that you can improve upon in the vast umbrella of communication, I’ll share a short story that illustrates a simple habit which is easily implemented that will solve many issues before they arise. 

Many years ago, when I was beginning my career in sales, I had a client who sent an email asking if I could process a special customized order.   This request required the approval of my manager, therefore, I had to share the request up the totem pole before I could share an answer.  My manager was very quick to act, and from our previous work together, I knew he would have an answer sent to me by the end of the day that I could forward to my client.  This was a simple request, and I felt certain we would accommodate the client.  I forwarded the email to my boss, shut down my computer, and I left the office to visit several scheduled sales meetings that afternoon.  I planned to keep a close eye on my phone to see if I received any updates.  Several hours later when I finally returned to my desk, an email popped up in my inbox from my manager that read, “We can do it, close the sale!”

I immediately reached out to my client with the great news.  Minutes later I received a response I did not anticipate.  “Greg, I never heard back from you and we needed to make sure we could get the order placed today, so we used another company.” 

Immediately my thoughts turned negative, full of victim mentality, anger, and excuses. 

I thought to myself;

“Why couldn’t my client give me a couple of hours to provide an answer?

“Why didn’t my client tell me it was urgent.”

“Why didn’t my client state they would potentially use a competitor?”

Can you see the many errors of both my thinking and my actions?  Can you feel my lack of ownership?

Imagine how the scenario would have played out differently had I taken a different approach.   While sending the email to my manager for approval was the appropriate action, by not responding to my client I created a void with no communication. When lack of communication is present, the void is likely filled with negativity and worst-case scenarios.  In my client’s world, he felt pressure to receive an answer quickly, regardless of whether he told me or not.  My lack of response did nothing to help him feel confident in our ability to serve his need.  My lack of response creative negative thoughts in his mind that we would not fulfill his request and forced him to take his business elsewhere.

Instead, I should have responded to my client with the following message:

“I have received your request.  I feel confident we can make this happen; however, I need approval from my manager.  I will reach out to him now.  He typically will provide me an answer prior to 4:00 PM this afternoon.  Does this fit your timeline for an answer?”

This communication response would have accomplished two different outcomes.   First, my client would know that I have received his request and it would have given him a timeline to hear a response from me.  This would have given him confidence in our ability to identify an answer for his need.  Second, the simple message would have given my client the ability to respond if the timeline did not fit his needs, therefore giving me the opportunity to adjust.  I could have then called my manager and requested approval with more urgency.

Think about both your personal and professional relationships.  What communication breakdowns cause issues due to a lack of clear responses?

When receiving communicating from another person, confirm you received the message, share your response and timeline if needed, and ask that the person you are communicating with confirm that they received your message in return.  For anyone who has served our country in the military, you might be thinking, “Roger that.”

How can you improve your communication to the people in your life?