I logged in first. The other 4 joined one by one within the following few minutes. We started the call with the canned, expected “How are you?”. As if on a sort of an auto-pilot - “All good”, “fine, thanks” and “Yeah, good, you?” were the responses and we jumped right into the call.
I thought to myself – what’s the point?
Quickly I realized that the purpose of asking it, is simply to be used as a greeting. No one really cares how you really are when they greet you. Just like good morning, good afternoon, a welcoming greeting of sort.
So, what happened?
We all got programmed to greet each other with “How are you?” which over time simply diminished the actual essence of the question…..and the response as well. When we start business calls, especially these days when it is online, you can say “How are you?” or ”How’s it going?” or might as well just say….hey. And the reply….well…same thing. Doesn’t really matter what your response is. We all on the call, checked the boxes on the greeting part and moved on.
"How you doin'?"
After pondering the essence of this interaction, I realized it is not necessarily such a bad thing. I mean, I would rather start the call with some polite greeting ritual than not at all right?
But then, something interesting happened. I sensed during the call that one of the people on the call who happened to be a new customer, was a bit off. If we were in a face to face setting I would have probably waited till the end of the meeting and on the way out, in the hallway, a more intimate setting, I would approach him and ask him if everything is OK. But since we are all online these days I wondered how I could re-create that hallway intimacy on our virtual business relationships.
So towards the end of the call, I asked my customer if he had a minute and could stay behind. He agreed. We moved from being 7 participants to only the two of us. Right there and then we both already felt more intimate. Everyone left the room, the energy shifted to a more trusted and secured environment allowing us both to be more open. This is where I wanted to really drive the Emotional Relevance impact and try it out. As a quick reminder, there are three pillars to Emotional Relevance: Stand Out, Make and Impact and Get Personal. By asking him to stay back for a minute I figured I already stood out.
Now it’s just the two of us...
Me: Hey, good call, right?
Customer: Yes, I think so.
Me: Do you mind if I ask you a personal question? (another opportunity to Stand Out a bit as he, like many of us, are not used to discussing personal matters in the workplace)
Customer: Sure, go ahead
Me: So how are you?
Customer: I am OK.
Me: (2 seconds pause) No, really. How are you?
As if I signaled him – I really do care. I really do want to know how you are. This is not a greeting anymore.
I could see him taking a deep breath. His shoulders lowered, he leaned back in his chair and shared. We spent about 25 minutes sharing some real personal challenges. We opened up. Couldn’t care less at that moment about our business relationships. We were….human.
We connected on a personal level. And we both felt it.
A few days later we had a follow up call regarding the implementation of our technology. I logged in as usual a few minutes early. My customer (my new friend) and 2 others logged in early as well.
You know how you start watching a new show on Netflix, a show that got you really excited, you connected with it personally, it made you laugh, tear a bit and you just can’t wait to watch the next episode? And when you finally get to the end of the day, you have those few minutes of me-time, you get your favorite drink and snack ready and your are anxious to hit the play button? Those 3 seconds of anticipation, of excitement – that’s exactly how I felt at the beginning of that follow up call. And I could tell my customer, the one I spent 25 minutes with the other day getting to know personally, felt the same.
I keep writing about the importance of Getting Personal in the business world. And so, I dare you, on your next call with a customer, with a colleague, at the right timing, create a “virtual hallway conversation”, pause for a second, and ask them how they are. No, really, how are you?
As we are still waiting for the rest of the participants to show up I was still considering if I should say something to my new friend.
And then I heard it…..
“Hey Alon….how are you?”
I saw him smiling. I smiled back at him. Paused for a second and said…
“I am well my friend. No, really, I am well”.