In the past two weeks, I’ve made some big mistakes. If I was the only one affected by these errors, I could quietly and humbly accept them as necessary reminders that I’m far from perfect and, hopefully, learn a lesson or two. But my clients were impacted (yikes!). In speaking with them, I was reminded of the importance of using common, simple words to clearly express ourselves and inspire conversation.
What powerful words and phrases create clarity, lead to conversation and build relationships?
1. “I’m sorry” – While this might seem obvious, I’ve gotten a lot of push back in workshops over the years from individuals who absolutely refuse to use this phrase. These words are not only the best way to indicate you recognize your responsibility for a situation and truly regret its impact on the other person (as in “I’m so sorry I forgot our workshop”), but they also allow you to express empathy and compassion (“I’m sorry you’re in this situation” or “I’m sorry to hear that …”). Often, a sincere “I’m sorry” quickly and easily defuses a highly emotional situation.
2. “Thank you” – As children we are taught to use this phrase often – thanking relatives, parents, teachers for all they did for us. As we grow older, we tend to forget its importance. “Thank you for your time” or “Thank you for your understanding” or “Thank you for sharing your thoughts” not only express appreciation, but they support strong and honest relationships with our clients and prospects.
3. “Help” – In my early years of learning how to sell, I used this word several times an hour. I’ve found it to be the easiest way to dissolve defensiveness, gather information and create relationships. Phrases such as “I’m wondering if you can help me” or “I’m hoping you can help me” or even “I need help” quickly engage gatekeepers and executive assistants. They also inspire superior customer service when contacting your cellphone provider, bank and other suppliers.
4. “Tell me more” – This is my “go to” open-ended question. When we want to hear and learn more about a customer or prospect, specific questions can be tainted by our assumptions and expectations and/or limit what will be shared. The phrase “Tell me more” gives the other person complete freedom to express themselves. It serves, and is most often accepted, as an invitation to express what’s most important.
5. “I hear you” – It’s one thing to inspire conversation … another to truly listen. Everyone wants to be heard. When we genuinely say “I hear you” and share a quick summary of what we’ve understood, we demonstrate a deep respect for our prospects and clients, and build a strong foundation for long-lasting relationships.