If you’re like me, you think you’re a great communicator, right?

I saw a Forbes article recently that caused me to reconsider: 8 Secrets of Great Communicators by Travis Bradberry. Here’s what caused me to reconsider:

When communicating with people we know well, we make presumptions about what they understand—presumptions that we don’t dare make with strangers. This tendency to overestimate how well we communicate (and how well we’re understood) is so prevalent that psychologists even have a name for it: closeness-communication bias…

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

You see, I believe some, maybe even most lawyers make presumptions about their client’s problem. Those lawyers listen for what makes the new client’s matter familiar because it gives them the opportunity to show how smart and how experienced they are.

Time is Money

I know because I’ve been in a room more than once where a lawyer trying to make a sale tried to convince the new potential client that he or she had handled a matter just like the one the new client has. Clients feel those lawyers are more interested in the legal fees than they are interested in them.

In addition to the presumption of understanding, the other problem is no client believes his or her matter is just like any other.

All of the eight secrets are right on target. For example, Bradberry’s third secret on the list is to: Listen so people will talk. I believe this description of listening is especially important for a lawyer listening to a client.

Listening isn’t just about hearing words; it’s also about listening to the tone, speed, and volume of the voice. What is being said? Anything not being said? What hidden messages below the surface exist?

Bradberry’s  fourth secret is Connect emotionally.

Bradberry includes one of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes:

People will forget what you said and did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

So, what’s the takeaway? You want to focus on your client, actively listen, don’t make presumptions and connect emotionally by taking a genuine interest in your new client and making them feel they are the most important client you have.

This week I have been focusing on networking. Here is the final post in my series.

I have never been a great "working the room" guy. I don’t like to go to events where I don’t know anyone.  I am happy to go to an event if I gave a presentation to the group, because people who attended come up to me. If my presentation is after the networking event, I rarely introduce myself to strangers. 

Knowing networking is a weakness, I have done a lot of reading on the subject. There are books and articles devoted to networking. Because I have always felt I am a novice, I have read many of them. 

Like most writers, I normally have my top 10 points. In this case I have 11. In a nutshell, here is what I have gotten out of what I have read:

  1. Do some homework before the event.
  2. Dress for success-I read about a very successful woman real estate developer who wore red suits to events so she would stand out from the blue and gray men’s suits.
  3. If you don’t know anyone it is better to find someone else who is alone than to interject yourself into someone else’s conversation.
  4. Feel comfortable introducing yourself and smile and make eye contact when you do.
  5. Have an elevator speech in your mind to use when someone asks what you do.
  6. More importantly have elevator questions in your mind to ask people you meet to get them talking.
  7. Search for something in common.
  8. As I expressed on Monday, call the person by name, find a way to remember his or her name and end the conversation by using the person’s name again.
  9. Do not have food in one hand and a drink in the other.
  10. Have a few graceful exits planned.
  11. Learn something about each person you meet that gives you the opportunity to follow up after the event. 

When is your next networking event or conference? Think about the ideas I have shared and give it a try. If you want more thoughts on how to follow up after the event drop me a line.