Closing the Generational Communication Gap


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For the first time ever, there are as many as four different generations engaged in our workplace — Traditionalists, Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y (Millenials). Besides the increased ethnic diversity of our global economy, our workforce is proliferated with an incredible mix of generational cultures, as well. As effective communication is at the foundation of our relationship building behaviors, educating sales teams on the best approaches to connect with these various groups is not simply a one-style fits all solution.

When discussing the first phase of any relationship building activity, I encourage everyone to pay close attention to everything. The old school methodology of mirroring or matching is antiquated, overused, over-applied, and known to all. The worst thing you can do is begin to engage someone based on your mirroring and matching techniques. First, it is rude. Second, they have see that show before. Finally, it is not genuine or authentic.

Instead, pay close attention to everything! The first phase of the selling cycle is RELATE — the task is to listen, observe, internalize, and understand. Through this process you will position yourself at a place that enables you to converse with the person at a level, in a manner, and with a style that compliments them. This is different from simple mirroring and matching in that you actually have to spend some time engaging them in a conversation where they are doing most of the talking and you are doing most of the listening and observing. Mirroring and matching teaches you to pay attention and then talk, act, and behave like they do. RELATE emphasizes paying attention to their behaviors so you understand how they like to communicate and you do your best to communicate with them in a manner that demonstrates your respect for their style, their values, their approach, their seniority, and their expectations. RELATE is not a behavioral game, it is a personal commitment.

Here are the four steps:

1. Listen: Pay close attention to the words being used. Some people are visual. Some people use negative words. Some are auditory or use positive phrases. Some people speak decisively and clearly. Others struggle to organize a clear thought. Some people speak very fast, while others are more deliberate. How they talk, the words they use and how they use them tell you a great deal about how they think, how they view the world, and how they tackle challenges. The more you listen, the more you pay attention — the more you will know about them.

2. Observe: Body language tells you everything about their behaviors. How they stand, how they sit, whether they look you in the eye, whether they are easily distracted, or impatient provides you all you need to know about how they are emotionally wired. How they respond to you provides an early indication of trust, credibility, or respect. Observe how they communicate with their body when talking and listening. It provides a glimpse at their behavioral mindset.

3. Internalize: All this is worthless if you don’t learn from it. When you walk out of a meeting and cannot tell me about the person — behaviors, attitudes, likes, dislikes, goals, ambitions, passions, personal style, etc.– you didn’t spend enough time learning. A thirty minute conversation with anyone will give you a powerful glimpse about them. The challenge is making certain you spent that thirty minutes focused in a determined to learn mindset.

4. Understand: Once you understand what someone is like, communicating at their level is quite fundamental. Learn to recognize the words that are most important. Understand where they are used and how they are used. And, start to use those words in the same appropriate, passionate way. This is not mimicking or matching — this is demonstrating respect and understanding. People do not want to build relationships with people who are phony, fake, or game players. However, they appreciate it when you demonstrate the ability to honor and respect their behaviors, their vocabulary, and their values. You do not have to agree with any of them – you simply need to be able to demonstrate your awareness and respect the existence of them.

Communication is all about how well you pay attention — words, behaviors, body language, etc. The better you are at paying attention in order to respect and understand what it important to your client, the more effective you will be in communicating with them. Remember, it this not a generational thing as much as it is a personality thing! Do the work!!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Cooke
I leverage my 25 years experience in sales and marketing to create and implement strategic initiatives and develop educational programs that increase both revenues and profits. I take great pride in my experience in turbulent, chaotic, and transitional work environments. It is from these experiences that I have developed my commitment to collaborative teams, strong internal and external relationships, effective communication, decisive leadership, and a cohesive, collaborative strategy as keys to sustainable revenue growth.


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