23 February 2021

How to create connection with your clients?

Have you ever noticed how hard it can be to get people to listen?

Have you ever had a challenge getting your point across, even when it was about something of critical import?

In conversations with lawyers in private practice and in-house counsel I frequently hear about the difficulties they run into advising clients and colleagues on alternative courses of action, or risk prevention measures to take.

It is so easy for important advice to be discounted because the lawyer is seen as not getting the big vision, or being too risk averse, or creating unnecessary roadblocks.

Next time you need to provide a client or colleague with an insight they may not immediately welcome try using this three-step approach to getting your point across, I call it the “3As”.

Step One: Active Listening

It was Steven Covey who decades ago famously wrote: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Your first step is to listen for what’s important to your client or the colleague you are working with. What are their goals? What are their concerns? What action do they wish to take and why?

The key to active listening is to be curious and to use questions to draw out all the relevant information.

Step two: Activate non-verbal communication      

Not judging is an essential part of active listening. But if you come across as closed, your conversation partner will not tell you that much after all. The other person must feel that  you are actually listening. You can use your body language in the following ways:                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Look at your conversation partner.

Use your facial expressions appropriately. When someone is happy, you can smile. If someone tells you something serious, be shocked. Make sure that it does not seem like you are acting. Maintain an open body position. Keep your arms at your sides instead of in front of your chest.

Don't give in to distraction. If you are in a room with a glass wall, do not always look at who is walking by, for example. Actions that you do completely unconsciously, such as fiddling with your clothes, can also give the impression that you are distracted.

Now and then, say short words like "yes", "aha" or "mmm" to encourage the other person to say more.

At the same time, it is important to watch and listen to the non-verbal communication of the other participant(s) in the conversation. Listen carefully to the tone of the voice. If someone who normally speaks very fluently starts to falter, that is a signal, although you do not always know what it means. 

The attitude of your conversation partner is also important. Does someone suddenly sit with their arms in front of their body during the conversation? Then this is a topic he doesn't like to talk about. Does the other suddenly start fiddling with something? Then they are probably a bit nervous. 

Step three: Approche listening instead to speaking

Active listening does not mean that you cannot express your own opinion. Giving your own opinion is just as much part of the open atmosphere you want to create. If you do not agree with your conversation partner, please indicate this in a respectful manner

Sometimes your conversation partner has another reason for not showing the back of his tongue. He has a double agenda or he doesn't want to tell something out of shame. In these situations, active listening is not going to help you pull the words out of your conversation partner. That's okay. If your conversation partner does not want to say something, that is also information. Just make sure that you don't fill in for the other person what she doesn't tell you and why.

You often listen actively as part of a conversation that has been framed in advance. For example, you have convened your team for an hour to discuss how you will achieve the revenue targets for this year. You cannot just listen. It is then important to respectfully return the conversation to the topic of the meeting.

Active listening is one of the most valuable skills you can have as a person and as a professional. You give your conversation partner, whether this is your partner, your neighbor or a CEO, a familiar feeling. You understand the motives of the other better. In this way you can better include the wishes of the other in your considerations. Even if you have to disappoint someone else, you have at least listened to him or her

Copyright © The Impact Lawyers. All rights reserved. This information or any part of it may not be copied or disseminated in any way or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of The Impact Lawyers. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of The Impact Lawyers.

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