I read a brief “how-to” article recently in a newsletter. The advice focused on getting your phone calls returned and one of the highlighted tips reminded me why our consulting practice exists: authentic communication is missing and badly needed.
This was the tip: leave a voice mail message by first giving your name and phone number. Then say, “I called because I understand that you are exactly the right person to talk to about…” and hang up abruptly without finishing the sentence. The person is likely to think you were cut off and will return your message to hear the end of the unfinished sentence. Great, you tricked them! A petty victory won by someone who is disconnected at best and at worst desperate, incompetent, and/or ignorant.
Many “communication professionals” do not differentiate manipulation from communication. Manipulation can be accomplished by fear and seduction. The example above has the listener be afraid they are missing out on something and seduced to call back. Genuine communication is accomplished by truly connecting with the purposes, worries, and circumstances of other human beings. I think the difference is important for both ethical and practical reasons.
Manipulation separates relationship from results since, if I choose manipulation, I squander relationship to get a desired result. I give up on genuine collaboration in a short-sighted lust for getting something. The relationship is damaged, and that truth will eventually be known. We all can tell we’ve been conned, even if it takes a while to face the falsehood. So why is there so much manipulation? My current thinking: ignorance, despair, and incompetence. The cost of manipulation and the benefit of genuine connection are not widely known; the memory of past relationship failures (professional and personal) lessens confidence; the ignorance and despair suppress our natural desire to be great at causing and maintaining valuable relationships. The cost is great because authentic relationships spawn trust, creativity, resilience, and effective action. Manipulation will not match the output of genuine relationship.
All of this leaves me grateful for our clients. We get to work with people who are willing to do the hard work that it takes to cause genuine connections, the kind that spur shocking innovation, great results, and great relationships. We get to work with people who are willing to bet that ethical relationships are good business. You know what else? We get to work with people who do not have to lie to get their phone calls returned.