The Quiet Side of Communication

by Barbara Tolliver-Haskins

When was the last time you actually spoke with a friend by telephone or face-to-face?  More and more of our communication takes place via Facebook, tweeting, blogging, texting, and of course, email.  Unfortunately, these electronic options have become distractions. We believe that we can multi-task; we can scan a text, watch TV and pay attention to the person speaking to us.

I respectfully disagree. When we turn down the noise, we begin to really hear each other. Times are changing, but human interaction has some constants. And what we communicate is not always confined to what we say.

A real life situation

Recently, I took a break to get coffee from my favorite coffee spot. The server was charming, attractive and courteous.

When I approached her, she was on her cell phone.  I quietly waited until she acknowledged me.  She cordially said, “May I help you?”  My response was “Are you having a telephone conversation?”  She replied, “Yes, but I can do both.”  I placed my order as she continued to chat on the phone.

She smiled and verified what she thought she heard and continued to talk on the phone. I smiled and simply said, “no.” She quickly apologized and made the corrections to my order. She said “I was multi-tasking. I realize that I just can’t do everything at once.”  She ended her phone conversation and provided the personal attention that (she and I both knew) I deserved as a customer.

The quiet side of our conversation  – the silent exchange of messages without words – indicated that she recognized the need to provide customer service.  I wouldn’t have wanted to tell her how put out I was with her inattention, and I didn’t need to. My polite silence did it for me. In addition, it was obvious that she wanted to please  her customer. Her chagrin and return to focus were evident in her body language. There was something magical in the chemistry of the conversation that happened in between the words we exchanged. I had a learning moment and so did she. As she was cleaning tables, she stopped by and asked about the nature of my business, and then went back to work.  I liked her.  She was a joy.  I observed her serving another customer, explaining the different drinks and doing it professionally, and being really present.

The quiet side of communication is like the wind…we may not be able to see it or touch it in advance, but we feel its vibration.

What benchmarks have you established?  How might your customers rate the quiet side of communication in your business?  Which tools work best for you?

Barbara Tolliver-Haskins is a national leadership expert. She is a Credentialed Executive Coach and affiliate of the International Coaching Federation. Barbara firmly believes there is a “spark of greatness” yet to be discovered in each of us, and her coaching is designed to help access it.

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About candacemoody

Candace’s background includes Human Resources, recruiting, training and assessment. She spent several years with a national staffing company, serving employers on both coasts. Her writing on business, career and employment issues has appeared in the Florida Times Union, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and 904 Magazine, as well as several national publications and websites. Candace is often quoted in the media on local labor market and employment issues.
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