I recently had a conversation with a client who told me he sometimes hears complaints from his end-users that he’s being rude. He told me that he didn’t feel like he was being rude at all.

I doubt he was being rude, but I suspect he maintains a “strictly-business” demeanor around the office. I’ve noticed in our email exchanges and phone calls that his responses to me are terse and strictly-business with no trace of humanness. He’s really beyond formal, in that his emails don’t even include a greeting (“Hi Don” or “Dear Don”), a complimentary close (“Kind regards” or “Sincerely”), or even an email signature. I noticed in our phone conversations that he didn’t initiate any sort of attempt to connect with me as one person to another. Of course, I’m seen as a vendor and sometimes treated differently from, say, co-workers. Still, I wonder if a clue to his problem with end-users might be found in the way he interacted with me.

When we’re dealing with customers or end-users, we’ve got to remember that we’re dealing with another human being. Human beings have feelings. Humans often have a need to feel connected to another human. For many people, it’s important to like the people they deal with in the workplace, in stores, healthcare, education, and any other place. Sure, some people don’t care about that, but a lot of people do and when we fail to take an extra moment to connect with our fellow humans, we can seem off-putting, uncaring, and even rude, even though our very honorable intention is to simply get the job done. You’d think they’d appreciate our efficiency!

Here are some things you can do:

  • Review Past Emails Go back and look at your email exchanges with everyone from customers to co-workers to vendors. If they are “strictly business”, consider softening them just a little with things like a courtesy greeting such as “Hi Susan” or even the more formal “Dear Robert”, a courtesy close such as “Sincerely”, “Yours truly”, or “Kind regards”, and even a personal connection comment such as “I hope your Monday is going well.” Please don’t misunderstand me on this. I’m suggesting a brief comment to connect on a human-to-human level. I’m certainly not suggesting that we should get deeply personal in business emails!
  • Add a Signature Add an email signature with your name, phone number, and email. Consider including your company name and title. It shows you care enough to make yourself easily accessible.
  • Review Your Phone Calls Record and review your telephone conversations. (Make sure to let the other parties to the conversations know they’re being recorded.) Listening to yourself can be painful sometimes, but it’s also a great way to hear yourself the way others hear you.
  • Conduct a Survey Consider conducting a survey of your existing end-users or customers using a tool such as SurveyMonkey to gather information about how you are perceived. A word of caution on this: You need to be thick-skinned because sometimes the responses you’ll receive can be brutal. Only do this if you’re really serious about self-improvement and can take criticism without becoming defensive.
  • Smile! A smile comes through even in telephone conversations. It adds warmth to your voice and makes you seem friendlier and more approachable. Consider putting a small mirror on your desk to remind you to smile when you’re on the phone.

Always remember that we’re dealing with people and must find ways to make our communications human with a touch of warmth and our own humanness.

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