George Bernard Shaw once said “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”, and he has a point. Communication is one of the key success factors in alliances and partnerships. In fact it may even be the key factor in any collaboration, whether it is between colleagues or with your alliance partner. Maybe it is even the cornerstone of any relationship: political, personal, professional, friendly. Whatever the relation type is, communication is the cornerstone. Think about that for a moment.
Now, if communication is the cornerstone, why are we so lousy at it? We often tend to mix up communication with tools and technology and forget about the basics. Remember that communication game we played as kids? While sitting together in a circle an adult would whisper a phrase in the ear of the first kid, who then would whisper it in the ear of the second and so on. At the end of the circle the message was guaranteed to be completely different from the original message. Lots of fun for children, but still a very true daily practices for many adults and often even the essence of our daily communications.
We take communication for granted. We send off an email, a text message, a tweet, a Facebook message, a whatsapp message or another message instead of something personal. Worse even, we handle our mail when we are supposed to pay attention to a conference call or meeting, so we skip one communication for the other. And still we think we have communicated our message and we assume that our partner has the same understanding of what we have written. In the words of Mr Shaw: “We have the illusion that it has taken place”, but do we ever check the understanding? Communication is two-way and not just a matter of transmitting, but it is just as important to ask for confirmation and to make sure that what you want to be understood is indeed understood. Then respond to the response, have a conversation and true communication starts to happen.
Communication tends to get better or easier when we start to know our (business) partner better. We can only learn to know our partners better when we invest in the relationship. Make time for your business partners and get to know them. They may represent a company, but in the end they are human beings like yourself, with human interests. Knowing the human behind your partner will improve communication and with that can improve the relationship a lot. Business gets easier and you will build trust and credibility.
Communication in business is like communication with friends. So, do you know what is important for your friends personally? Do you know what drives your business contact? Do you ever give a compliment to a friend? Do you ever give a compliment to your business partner or colleague?
Try it: ask questions, give compliments, learn to know the person behind your business contacts and it may change the world!
This article is part of a series of articles extending upon the 25 tips for successful partnerships & alliances article. These 25 tips have been rewritten and published in the eBook “25 tips for successful partnerships & alliances” that can be downloaded for free.