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.