This article focuses on energy habit #4: PERFORM. Let me tell you a quick story.
Scott has been a road warrior for years and although sharp, he struggles with conversation on the road.
He’s good at his job, knows his stuff, but seems to be missing the “connecting with people” part of the program. Scott answers any questions he’s asked but any real conversation is “sold separately” with him. He wonders if it’s a personality thing since he’s a little more on the introverted side.
He also wonders if it’s a confidence issue and doesn’t want to look foolish. Scott is also more on the private side and so trust is a big issue.
ERW Research has found the following types of people who travel in relation to conversation:
- All business talk all the time
- Never asks questions and answers any non-business questions with a short and straight answer
- Rarely asks questions but will answer any questions asked of them
- A hybrid of business and personal talk
The challenge is too many business travelers really don’t connect with people on the road and either:
- Don’t have a clue
- Don’t care
- Don’t know what to do about it
The largest category is “they don’t have a clue” – most do care, although we’ve all met the guy who doesn’t care.
My hope is that you will know what to do about it.
Sadly, too many business travelers actually think they’re connecting when they’ve been disconnected long ago and I’m hoping to change that.
Conversation is the oil that keeps relationship smooth.
But wait, aren’t we just on the road to do our deal and get home? You know, get in, get out, and no one gets hurt.
Yet most of our relationships have dried up and are in desperate need of the relational oil to smooth things out. You’ve more than likely heard the phrase “people do business with people they know, like, and trust”.
Yet so few business travelers people are actually known and tolerated as an acquaintance, let alone actually are liked.
Now, I’m not talking about being insecure and going out of your way so everyone likes you. But most business travelers are on the complete other side of that concern.
With Scott’s concern in the opening story, there are variables:
- Extroverted or Introverted
- Public or Private
- Straight to Business or Warming up the Crowd
Some people simply don’t like small talk. They view it as a waste of time. But there is definitely more to conversation than small talk especially if it has a purpose.
Almost all of us want to do our best on the road and perform at a high level. But we’re missing something very important and we under-utilize leveraging the power of conversation to truly connect with people.
So what are the five conversation levels to connect with people on the road?
In the book Click by Ori and Ram Brafman, they discuss five conversation levels that I want to bring into the context of the business travel world.
Level One – Phatic
On one end of the spectrum, there are phatic stamens that are not emotionally revealing at all.
They are Social niceties (e.g. “How are you?” “Nice to see you”). These are fillers (and the response is not particularly important). We say these things not because we want to elicit a response but rather because they smooth out any friction in our social interactions.
Level Two – Factual
In this type of discourse, people share and seek basic bits of objective, factual data: I live in Chicago. What do you do for a living? We seek and share (harmless) bytes of information
These are straight-forward observations to which no strong opinions are attached.
Level Three – Evaluative
Where we express an opinion on something about people or a situation. (e.g. “That movie was really funny”, “I don’t like her new haircut”).
If the other person agrees/disagrees with our point of view then it could affect our relationship with them (we are more drawn to people who share our values).
These three levels of interactions – phatic, factual, and evaluative – constitute what’s called the TRANSACTIONAL Category – communication that conveys thought-oriented (as opposed to emotional) information.
It’s only when we cross the threshold to the second category, CONNECTIVE Interactions, that we really make ourselves more vulnerable and where we have the ability to truly connect.
Level Four – Gut-level
This is where we reveal our feelings about something (e.g. “I’m sad you are not coming with us”). We usually limit these conversations to only the closest people we know. However, used appropriately, they can be very powerful with a wider selection of people.
Each of these comments reveals something personal and emotionally laden about the communicator. These comments are usually saved for people we already trust or feel a deeper connection with.
Even with those we are closest to, though, we rarely venture into the 5th and most emotionally vulnerable level
Level Five – Peak
These are the highest level of emotional states that often reveal our deepest innermost thoughts, values, and feelings (e.g. “I was really hurt when you said I wouldn’t make a good father”). The deeper we go, the deeper the engagement we can make.
- What levels do you implement?
- Where do you stop and why?
Connecting with people is key to performing at a high level on the road and truly being effective in your work and with others.
You Got This!