Practice communicating in a way that is clear and authentic. It can be hard to communicate based on the way that you feel and clearly state what you need out of a relationship or circumstance. This is particularly true in business. Our society often demonstrates that emotions have no place at work. While unchecked emotional responses are not appropriate in the work place, any business relationship is between two emotional beings.
When communicating with clients it is important to use your thoughts, logic, and knowledge. As a service provider, you are being hired for your expertise. Do not hesitate to share what you think. Share your thoughts and explain your position. You can really help to educate your clients by telling them what you are doing and why. Even with all of the knowledge in the world, you cannot separate out business from emotional responses. As an equine entrepreneur, you will come across heightened emotions at times.
It is not necessary to suppress your emotions to communicate in a professional manner. You can state how you feel. If you get into a conflict or situation in which the emotional tension is high, you will come across as inauthentic and not trustworthy if you try to relate to your client with your intellect alone. You have to open up and let them know how you feel. This does not mean that you need to have an outburst to get your point across.
Let’s say you are a farrier and a few days after shoeing a horse, the horse comes up lame with an abscess. The owner calls you and is irate. This is her favorite horse and she is training for a big competition at the end of the month. She is convinced that you must have placed a nail wrong and wants you to do something about it – now!
The first thing you need to do is listen to what she is saying and empathize with the fact that she is upset. You need to hear what is bothering her. Some of the needs behind this outrage could be that she doesn’t like seeing her partner in pain, she was hoping to be recognized at the show because she needs some new training clients, and she is worried about this happening to her other horses. You need to set your defenses aside and hear her side of the story and ensure that she feels heard.
Once you have empathized, you do not want to go in with guns blazing to defend yourself. You want to honestly evaluate whether or not the abscess is possibly the result of a bad nail or just a coincidence. Use a calm, logical explanation, based on your expertise, as to why you think it is or is not from a nail. Use this as an opportunity to educate your client. Using your head to communicate is not enough. Take it one step further and let your client know how you feel. Here are some tips for different ways you could express how you feel in an appropriate manner:
If you are feeling guilty because you think that it is possible that you put in a bad nail, express to your client that:
- You feel really sad and worried
- You are willing to do ______ to make it right and repair the relationship – this is the time to repair the relationship in an honest way that shows that you care
- You will change ______to prevent it from happening in the future – perhaps you acknowledge that the mistake you made, or whatever your client needs to hear, so that you have a chance to rebuild trust
If you are feeling angry because you feel accused for doing something you didn’t do, tell your client that:
- You are really upset
- You are upset because of a need (such as wanting reassurance that you won’t lose this relationship) not because of the client’s anger (don’t blame them for your feelings – explain what it is in you that is bringing your emotions to the surface)
- You are willing to hear their concern rather than defend yourself or lash out and simultaneously stand firm in your knowledge, integrity, and anger
Communicating in a clear, professional, and authentic way helps to build relationships and client trust. You do not have to lash out or back down. Stand firm in how you feel and express that clearly. As long as you have given your client a chance to be heard first, and you address the way they are feeling, they should be willing to hear your side of it. With good communication, you can interact with your clients in a way that promotes strong connections and loyal customers.
Examine how you deal with conflict in your business. Do you feel comfortable expressing your feelings and needs in a situation? Are you comfortable empathizing with your clients feelings and needs? This is a skill that takes practice. Be patient with yourself and see if you can improve your customer service by using this technique.