All communication is... sales and marketing. That's right. Everything you do is a form of sales and marketing. When you call a good friend for a shoulder to cry on, you're selling your unhappiness hoping she'll buy it and supply the means to help you feel better. When you call a prospect to just chat, "Hey, haven't spoken in awhile, I was just wondering how you are?" you're sending a clear sales message: I care. Caring is a big part of sales.
Communication is a tricky thing. Each word uttered, each sentence constructed on the fly, each topic of conversation sends a meaning to the person listening or reading or eavesdropping. (You know you do it - in stores, in theaters, in farmer's markets, your ears are tuned to the voices of those around you). Each meaning is likely interpreted differently than you imagine.
It's in attempting to converse with a goal in mind (mentioning new products and services, perhaps), that we often get tangled up in misunderstanding. With the preponderance of social media today, including our friend "email", the opportunity to be misunderstood is greater than ever before. Email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs... don't convey tone or emotion. You're writing a passionate marketing note to the women in your church, hoping they'll join you in a meeting at the church hall, to raise funds for a cause dear to your heart... and the women are reading your note wondering why you chose to bother them. They might "see" your passion. They might "feel" your desire. They might "agree" with your goals. But, unless they know you well, they are listening to the voice in their head go Wah Wah Wah. Kind of like a Charlie Brown show on TV.
We attempt to insert emotion and tone into our writing. Notice how I'm trying very hard to do so here. (Notice that I used the word 'very' which I caution all writers to avoid! Why do you think I put it in that sentence?) But, too often we fail. We fail because we neglect to remember that communication goes two ways. It's me talking to you - and you, mabye, listening to me. What if you're only half listening? What parts of my message will you absorb? The right parts or the wrong parts? And, who decides which parts are right and which parts are wrong?
What if you're talking to me, and I'm, maybe, listening? Is your passioned appeal to me - complete with finger jabbing if we're standing together face-to-face, or with lots of exclamation points if you're writing to me - coming across as intended? Or, am I wondering why you're totally off your rocker?
We all know that listening is the better part of communication. We all know that listening is a skill worth massaging. We all know that listening is a tentative thing - in person, I likely have one ear positioned to 'hear' you and one ear positioned to catch other events, around us. In writing, I likely skim your content and miss a good bit of the important words.
What to do. Perhaps, just perhaps, we should begin to choose our communication needs in 2013. We should choose who to listen to, who to talk to, who to send along to someone more appropriate, and... most importantly, who to ignore.
Not everyone is deserving of your time.
Communicate in silence for awhile. You may learn more than you think.
A wise old owl sat in an oak.
The more he saw, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why can't we all be like that bird?
Edward Hersey Richards, from Best Loved Poems of the American People
p.s. poetry is by far the best communication tool I know of - read it - practice it - enjoy it