Excerpted from THE COMMUNICATION CLINIC: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes, by Barbara Pachter and Denise Cowie.

Ways to Engage with People—for People Who Don’t Like to Engage!

My customer complained to my supervisor that I answered the phone, “Yeah. What’s up?”

I was told that if I wanted to move up in my organization, I had to get out of my office more.

How could she not know what an Ethernet cord is? When I finally said “the blue cord,” she got it!

Lately, I have worked with a number of people with outstanding technical skills whose career growth has been limited by their inability to connect with others. They were referred to me for coaching to provide them with the necessary skills to engage successfully with coworkers, bosses, customers, and clients.

People want to hire, work with, promote, and do business with others whom they know and like. If you were not born with the “gift of gab,” and many people weren’t, you can learn the skills that enable you to connect with others. Here are some suggestions that will help you to engage more easily!

  1. Be approachable. Some people have told me that they don’t want to be approached because people will ask them work questions. My response is twofold: You don’t have to answer every question asked of you. You can use a polite line to defer your response, such as, “I’m on my way to a meeting; please call or text me to schedule some time.” But if the question has a simple answer, why not help the person immediately? Chances are, he or she will find you later anyway.
  2. Keep your phone off the table when meeting with someone. Yes, you read that correctly. Having your phone visible tells the other person, “I am so ready to drop you and connect with someone else.” And some people put two phones on the table!
  3. Do your homework. Knowing a little about topics that are important to your customers and colleagues will make it easier to make conversation. You don’t have to be an expert on every topic, but learn enough to allow you to participate. And convey interest in the person through your body language. Look at him or her, and maintain a pleasant facial expression.
  4. Don’t overload people with unnecessary information. Only give them as much data as they need. Some technical people believe that they have to impart all the facts, but their customers, colleagues, or bosses may have a lower threshold for details—and tune out once it is reached.
  5. Remember “the blue cord.” You should use language that your colleagues or customers will understand. Using a technical word that someone doesn’t recognize can distance you from that person. Some people understand what to do if they are told to “pull out the Ethernet cord” from amid a tangle of cables, but those who are less tech-savvy need simpler terms: “Pull out the blue cord.”
  6. Learn to socialize. This is an important business skill. You get to meet people, and they get to meet you, which can benefit you in many ways. You may meet potential new customers, enhance your chances of promotion, or simply enjoy some new friends. Go up to people, greet them, shake hands, and make conversation. The more you do it, the easier it will get.
  7. Call people. Don’t communicate via email and text exclusively. Calling people on the phone when appropriate creates a more personal connection. Also remember to sound pleasant and enthusiastic. When you answer the phone, be friendly. Say hello, give your name (“Gavin Jones speaking”), and, when appropriate, ask, “How may I help you?”
  8. Don’t ignore pen and paper. If a colleague or client comes to your office for a meeting, avoid taking notes on your laptop. Not only does taking notes in this manner draw your attention away from the other person, but the raised computer screen becomes a barrier between the two of you. An iPad or other tablet is okay. But taking any necessary notes the old-school way—with pen and paper—can be just as efficient and less intrusive.

PRESCRIPTION FOR SUCCESS

These are not the only ways to engage with others, but they are important ones. As you go through your day, remind yourself of the value of connecting and make a conscious effort to reach out. Soon these actions will become second nature to you.