As a native Californian, I have become accustomed to shallow phrases such as “We should catch up sometime” or “Let’s try to connect sometime soon.”
These statements might appear to be genuine but are often as passive and hollow as the common question “How is it going?”. A question that typically generates a “Good” response and then you move on.
These statements have become part of our passive language that is acceptable to most people. The only sad part is that these statements often do not advance the relationship or provide important feedback on the next steps to grow that relationship. They are well-intentioned remarks that can often float for months without it ever happening.
It is like when I say to myself “I should clean the garage sometime soon.” That thought can last for several months until I do it.
This passive language is all too common in the business world. Professionals often make statements that do not elicit a response or actionable next step. More importantly, it does not generate information that can help them navigate how to grow their business relationships.
A classic example would be to tell a prospective client “If you are ever in need of a business litigator, let me know.” Although this seems perfectly acceptable, it lets the prospective client off the hook. They can simply say “Okay” and move on. It tells the business litigator nothing about the client’s need or interest in working with them. This, in turn, can waste one’s valuable business development time if they court prospective clients who may never need or want to work with that person.
We are all guilty of this passive language to some degree. It is easy for everyone involved in the conversation. We feel like we are showing interest, but are we really advancing the relationship?
Consider in future conversations to switch from passive to proactive language. Instead of making shallow statements, ask specific questions. Try to flip the earlier conversation to “Are you ever in need of a business litigator?” If they respond “yes”, then take the conversation further. “Who are you currently using?” “Would you ever consider using someone else?” “What are you looking for in a business litigator?” And so on.
In my first example, by switching the statement from “We should catch up some time” to “Would you like to catch up early next week or the week after?”, the person on the receiving end might not only think that you are truly interested in catching up, but they might respond with a time to meet.
A close friend of mine from Southern California once said that where he lives it is like living in the shallow end of the pool. Not many of his relationships go very deep.
If you are looking for ways to take your professional or personal relationships deeper consider switching your language from passive to proactive. It can not only advance your relationships quicker, but it can often save you from wasting your time and energy on people who might not be a good fit for you and the services you offer.
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