Do you successfully communicate your ideas to your client? Ever realize that what you thought you said is not what your client heard? Our communications are misunderstood every day. During a recent adventure, I had some big and bold experiential “ahas.”
In November 2015, a construction mishap next door accidentally put a huge hole in my bedroom wall. A blessing in disguise, it began a 15-month renovation of my apartment, including the gut renovation of my kitchen. It was exciting and messy. I love the outcome, and I love my architect and contractor.
Through this process, I learned a valuable lesson on the importance of a common language. My architect and contractor were both rockstars when it came to keeping me informed and explaining the process to me in terms I could understand. What a huge blessing as a client!
For 28 years, I’ve worked in the design and construction industry as a marketer and a coach, but now I was a client — what a sweet, new perspective. I learned so much, including:
• Projects, risk and money make all clients nervous.
• Clients need to know what’s happening. And, different clients want different kinds and amounts of information.
• Industry professionals often have a language they use to communicate with each other that is not necessarily understood by the client.
I mention these lessons together because they are linked. When you’re afraid, it’s harder to listen and really understand what people are saying to you. The challenge to connect and transmit information to those under stress becomes greater.
We have all experienced this fear from the client’s perspective. For example, you go to the doctor for a concern, and as patients, we’re nervous or maybe even downright afraid. When the doc speaks, our fear can make us deaf. And when they speak medical jargon, they may as well be speaking another language. They could be telling us we’re going to live to be 110, but we would still panic!
I also learned in this process that language isn’t limited to words! For instance, drawings are a language designers and builders use to communicate with each other. As a client, intellectually I understand what a plan or an elevation is, but I learned that when my architect or contractor looks at that same elevation, they literally see things I don’t. My architect worked as a world-class translator to pop those images off the page and communicate them to me in a language I understood.
So, no matter your profession — accountant, auditor, architect, engineer, contractor, lawyer or manufacturer — how do you turn your industry language into a common language? How do you make certain you are understood?
• Don’t presume your client will understand your language. Be aware of what might be unique to your profession. Step outside your own perspective.
• Know your audience and be empathetic. Just as every profession is unique, so is every client! Know THEIR language. Put yourself in their shoes.
• Test your communication. Explain it to someone who is objective or unfamiliar with your project. Just because it’s crystal clear to you doesn’t mean it’s not complicated to your listener!
Bottom line, be willing to adjust your communication to help your listeners get it. Your clients will love you for it!
P.S. Here’s a picture of my architect (Eric K. Daniels) and builder’s (Norbert Kočan) handiwork. Enjoy! I am.