With a group of young Sparkers, we followed a communications training that will help make our conversations with clients (and with each other) more effective.
- Discover your clients’ ‘drive’: we learn by asking, rather than wanting to provide all the answers ourselves. Apply a ratio of 1/3 speaking yourself and 2/3 letting the client speak.
- Read your client’s body language and watch your own posture. Having your arms folded is a defensive pose. Sitting on a slant with feet pointing towards the door? It may be that someone’s head is already somewhere else. Do you hold your own hands during a presentation? It suggests you’re not sure about what you’re saying.
- Don’t sit opposite each other, it might have negative consequences. If you sit next to each other, it gives the feeling that you’re working together towards one goal.
- Analyse your discussions together: it’s confronting, but because of this, it’s also extremely informative. Sharing such experiences is also good for gaining understanding of the communication styles of clients and team members.
- Attitude & tone, ask open questions: the truth behind ‘it’s not what you say, but how you say it’ is in your attitude, tone and style of questioning. An open attitude is crucial: your body language, tone of speech and questions can convey this much better if you are aware of this.
- We believe it’s important that everyone involved in a project should have the right skills to have a productive discussion.
- A structure and rules are necessary to be able to have a useful debate. During the training, we practiced this on the basis of examples from our daily practice. For example, we discussed how to deal with resistance from your ‘opponent’. We got a lot of useful tips from the analysis of these exercises.
- Agree who will be the moderator. This person ensures that every can make his point and present his arguments. Including the people who are perhaps less outspoken in a meeting. You can do this by, for example, giving everyone a fixed time.
- Make an agenda and communicate this with participants.
- Is someone rambling? Is it unclear what someone means? Listen carefully, set clear parameters and summarize what is being said.
- Present arguments that match the motivations of discussion partners.