Not so long ago you’d find people in different countries wearing very different fashions. The effect was even more pronounced continent to continent, with dramatic differences in sartorial choices. But these days people in China are wearing much the same fashions as Britain, South Americans are following the same trends as people in Australia and the things we choose to wear are becoming a whole lot more ubiquitous.
“Sorry, I have to get this.” How often have you heard someone say that when they’re mid-way through a romantic meal in a restaurant, chatting with mates in the pub, in mid-flow during a business meeting, on a country walk in the middle of nowhere or at a family dinner?
Look around you. People are swiping and tapping all day, everywhere, on every kind of gadget. Has technology made us more anti-social? And what about good manners? It looks like what’s acceptable is changing as fast as our behaviour…
Do you really ‘have to get this’?
Let’s be honest. We managed perfectly well without the ability to engage and communicate with half the planet every second of the day and night. We used phone boxes and landlines, and we made personal calls from work landlines in an emergency. Otherwise we survived entire days without chatting to friends and family. weeks, even, and the world didn’t end, we didn’t die of boredom and loneliness.
All you have to do is listen in to people’s mobile conversations – which is actually more or less impossible to avoid if you’re nearby – and you realise many of them are piffle, idle chit-chat, small talk, banal domestic stuff, arrangement-making and gossip.
It isn’t as if we need to make crucial, critical, life-changing decisions every five minutes, so how come we suddenly need to be connected by an electronic umbilical cord 24/7?
What about taking calls on business?
You’re in an important meeting. Everyone’s phones keep going off. It gets more and more difficult to get things done and decided as delegates pop in and out because they ‘must take this’ call about their kids, the dry cleaning or a client matter that could just as easily wait an hour.
More and more business leaders are insisting people leave their phones outside meetings or turn them off altogether. It makes a lot of sense – meetings are about focus and attention, not chatting about what you had for breakfast and how well you slept.
The same goes for social media at work. When it’s work related networking, it’s a boost. When it’s personal, it wastes an awful lot of employee time. But plenty of organisations put up with it.
Is it a Brit thing?
Phone obsession isn’t international, a given or inevitable. Visit Amsterdam, for instance, and you’ll be amazed how few locals on the streets are glued to their phones., Perhaps it’s because otherwise they’d get run over by the city’s trams, but there’s probably more to it. It looks like a cultural thing, a Zeitgeist thing. British tourists, however, are just as glued to their gadgets as they are at home.
The changing face of manners
Being endlessly, instantly available has all sorts of downsides, not least because it’s bloody rude in old-school terms. On the other hand it’s so widespread it has already become acceptable. This heralds a dramatic, sweeping sea-change in our attitude to the amount and quality of the attention and respect we show our fellow humans.
How do you feel about anti-social mobile use at work?
Have you gone as far as banning mobiles at work except for work? Do you put up with people answering their phones and texting in work time, or spending chunks of their day on social media? Or are you trying to set in place formal mobile guidelines to show your employees what’s OK and what isn’t?
Sometimes, despite its advantages, remote communication is just not good enough. We can do most things remotely. But now and again face to face interaction is the only way to get things moving, get people on board and push everyone onto the same page. So how come face to face is still so important?
Cyclical relationships – Meetings are the glue
Have you ever experienced this? You’ve just had a really good meeting, and the whole team – every stakeholder – leaves feeling buoyed up, ready for anything and raring to go. It feels fantastic. But give it a few weeks or months and everyone’s moaning about everyone else, lines of communication are fast breaking down, mistakes are happening and people aren’t engaging with each other positively any more.
Even though everyone involved has every imaginable bit of supporting tech for comms excellence – Skype, email, video conferencing and the phone – the relationship invariably deteriorates as the human bonds that joined people fall away.
Luckily all you need to do, much of the time, is hold another positive, useful meeting and the team spirit flows back, leaving everyone feeling great again, able to work shoulder to shoulder, facing in the same direction for another few weeks or months. Goals are reaffirmed and hands shaken, eye contact made and motivation improved.
Real life sales meetings are particularly important
Most sales people thrive on company and don’t like spending long periods isolated. It’s a sociable career, which makes face to face sales meetings more important than most. It’s easier to motivate sales staff in person, and a smile and handshake is more powerful than a hundred emails, texts or Skype calls.
How can you minimise the effect of relationship cycles?
The very tech that can lead you into a comms no-man’s land is the tech that’ll save your business from the downside of the relationship cycle.
Do your people set aside regular time for conference calls and video conferencing? If not, make it so. How about an informal weekly round-up of the project’s progress, to keep everyone in the loop, including thank-yous to the stars of the show and appreciation for everyone’s efforts? It’ll help shore up the all-important team glue you get from meeting people face to face.
If you don’t encourage people to come to you with problems, you can’t solve them. An open, honest environment helps no end, where everyone feels safe saying it like it is and issues are dealt with quickly and effectively. How about a comments ‘box’ or a special email address for safely expressing gripes?
Other than that the best advice is this: go forth and have meetings. They’ll help you do better business.
We work in a global economy. It opens up huge new markets for many of us, with the world accessible online, but it comes with language barriers.
What if you want to build up strong, positive relationships with your fellow small business owners abroad? Plenty of people speak English, it being the language of the internet, but not all. Sometimes you’re going to have to bite the bullet and get busy with translation software.
We decided it’d be useful to look at how real-time speech-to-speech translation software is on the up and up, improving all the time, and point you in the right direction to find out how to use three of today’s best translation tools.
Today’s cutting edge speech-to-speech translation tools
These days you need to be able to get real-time language translation on every international call you make. Luckily there are some awesome speech recognition and translation tools around, designed to allow exactly that. It’s all very Star Trek. But it really does work. Amazing.
These software tools are adept at machine learning in that they learn and grow from users’ experience, improving every time they’re used. This means using them automatically involves you in refining the technology, ultimately overcoming language barriers for good.
About Google Speechlogger
The Google Chrome Speechlogger app is billed (by Google) as the ‘best speech recognition and instant voice translation on the web’. It runs Google’s own legendary speech-to-text technology and it’s the only such app with automatic punctuation, which means you don’t actually have to say stuff like ‘full stop’ and ‘comma’.
It comes with auto-save, timestamps, in-text editing, audio file transcription and you can export files to text and captions. And it currently translates 12 languages. There’s no need to actually register. It’s completely free and can be used for all sorts of purposes, including these:
- Speech to text
- Real time automatic interpretation, translating voice to text and voice instantly
- As a caption phone
- To generate subtitles
How to use Google Speechlogger
About Skype Translator
You can use Skype Translator on almost any Skype-enabled device. You can make video and voice calls with people who speak Spanish, French, German, Italian and Mandarin, and there are more languages in the pipeline.
You can call almost anyone who has Skype and the tool will translate your conversation into their language in more or less real-time. And their reply is translated back into English. You get a transcript of your call on screen and you can send instant messages in a massive fifty languages, some of which are seriously obscure. How to use Skype Translator
You can download a preview of Skype Translator here and drive your business in interesting new directions as well as playing your part in helping the international world engage better.
About iTranslate Voice
iTranslate Voice has won a suite of awards and comes with all sorts of accolades. Like the others it effectively lets you speak another language, voice-to-voice, and currently supports 42 languages and dialects.
In this case you need to speak the punctuation. But you soon get used to it and the simple way you do it works across all the languages supported by the tool. You can also use the keyboard instead of speaking.
Using the Airtranslate function, you can connect two devices running iTranslate Voice. And this is why iTransate might be better for people on the move. Say you’re travelling in Spain and need to talk to a local who doesn’t speak English. You can use your phone to converse, which is great, or if you both have iTranslate on your phones you can talk without having to hand your enabled phone back and forth.
How to use iTranslate Voice
What about the future?
Gartner pinpoints speech to speech tech as big for 2015 (read article here). The research paper Challenges and Future Directions for Speech-to-Speech Translation, by a team of scientists at BBN Technologies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, highlights the technology’s growing popularity, reach and sophistication. And they’re not alone. The wonderful world of language translation is only in its infancy, and things are moving ahead remarkably fast.
Look around you and you’ll notice mobiles are getting bigger again. If you’ve held onto an old un-smart phone just in case, take a look at it. It’s probably really wee compared to your smartphone.
The biggest version of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is at least twice the size of the smallest old-school flip-top Nokia, a veritable giant of a device in comparison. And the smallest tablet isn’t much bigger than a smartphone. What’s going on? And where will mobile devices go from here?
What will the smartphones of the future look like?
The thing is, a phone simply isn’t a phone any more. We’re carrying devices that are more like mini-computers, more like little laptops than telephones, and multiple functions mean you need more screen equity. The trend is likely to continue, with tomorrow’s phones tipped to be even more like multifunctional gadgets, with more screen space.
Is the future bendy?
The time isn’t far off when smartphones control our whole lives remotely, and the latest batch of concept phones reveal a glimpse of an interesting trend. Is there any real need for a phone to be rectangular? Not really. The tech can be housed in cases of all sorts of weird shapes.
Take Nokia’s The Morph, tipped to completely transform the user experience through being bendy and see-through. Samsung is thinking along the same lines. They’ve been showcasing flexible phones for ages, some so rugged you can actually fold them in half. The Galaxy Round smartphone had a gently-curved screen, but sales were poor. Perhaps it was too far ahead of its time. Whatever the story, Samsung is the pundits’ top tip for being the first to release a bendy phone.
Less phone, more life support machine
Some think future devices might be 100% display, using the front and back of the case to display information, so you could use it from any position or angle. Add silicon microphones, radio tech and speed and motion detectors and a phone could sense its the environment in all sorts of ways, figure out how healthy people in the vicinity are and even tell you what mood they’re in.
Apps have already turned our phones into GPS devices, sporting performance monitors and TVs. But your phone – or an extra part you snap on – might soon be able to transform itself physically into any number of handy gadgets for work and play.
Learning and teaching by mobile device
The online learning revolution is still developing, and future mobile devices might have a bigger part to play here, too. At least a third of school-age children have a mobile, and we’re only a step away from phones with voice recorders and cameras can be used as teaching and learning tools. SMS is already being used to tell parents when their child is playing truant, and to let pupils know about changes in lessons and classrooms.
The internet of things and wearable tech
The much-vaunted internet of things hasn’t developed anywhere near as fast as many expected, nor has wearable tech. People aren’t joining up their home tech with their smartphones… yet. Smartwatches haven’t really captured the public’s imagination, and Google Glass never really got off the ground.
Wearable tech and the internet of things both have a lot to offer. It’s probably a matter of finding out where genuine demand lies and tapping into it, rather than innovating in the hope that people will want to engage with it.
Teeny, weeny screens and keyboards
Are smartphones getting bigger because small screens and miniature keyboards are just too fiddly and impractical? It seems likely, and it’ll be interesting to see how the issue is solved by future smartphones. Perhaps a virtual keyboard, that you can project onto any surface? Maybe a virtual screen that expands to suit the job you’re ding on your phone at the time?
Watch this space for updates
Mobile devices already play a huge part in driving business, and the trend is set to continue. Read more in U Switch’s Guide to the Future of Mobile Phones (click here for full article).
You might have heard the term enterprise wearables bandied around recently. What are they, are they relevant to your business or not, and are they just a fad? We thought the subject was well worth exploring just in case wearables suddenly go mainstream, leaving you lost in space and behind the curve, wondering what on earth is happening.
Geek talk is one thing. Real science is another. One reason we know wearable tech is much more than just another craze is its sheer reach. Every week New Scientist magazine, a reliable source of the truth, reveals more and more wearable tech innovations being created for a bewildering array of purposes.
The long-awaited but so far disappointing Internet of Things has a part to play in wearable tech too, since the gadgets we’ll supposedly be wearing will need to talk to the internet as well as potentially talking to one other.
First, what are enterprise wearables?
What are wearables? It’s all about wearable computing, innovations like Google Glass, a brilliant idea that so far hasn’t got off the ground. It’s thrilling to think that one day you might be able to forget smartphones and PCs and laptops altogether and access the internet via clothing, spectacles, watches, whatever. On the other hand smartwatches have also proved disappointing so far, not fulfilling their early space-age, Star-Trekky promise.
Big brands are interested, of course, and big budgets means they’re streaking ahead. Audi, BMW and Hyundai, for example, are all looking into wearable tech for car drivers. But one sector in which wearable tech is currently booming, standing high above the rest, is health and fitness. You can already buy a vast variety of wearable devices and with Intel on board, things could soon start moving fast. Intel’s Curie is a system on a chip the size of a button and according to Intel it has a host of potential applications:
“The Intel Curie module is extremely power efficient and ideal for always-on applications such as health and wellness, social notifications and sports activities.”
So far most wearables take the form of either smart watches, wristbands or glasses. Industry gurus say they expect the trend to take off properly within 12 – 18 months. Why the delay? Apparently it’s because businesses feel the consumer grade devices available so far are simply not ready. There’s a lot more work to be done.
What can you expect from wearable tech in the next year?
You can expect a boom in innovative and unusual wearable tech ideas, most of which will fall by the wayside because there isn’t sufficient consumer appetite for them. After all, just because you make something possible it doesn’t automatically mean people want to do it.
Lopez Research has established that some sectors are much more open to the idea of wearable tech, namely healthcare, oil and gas, manufacturing, warehousing and logistics. And plenty of oirganisations in the sector are busy innovating and piloting right now. Take DHL, which is trialling a clever combination of wearable glasses and software to deliver real-time object recognition, barcode reading, indoor navigation and seamless integration with their current warehouse management systems.
Some commentators see the new technology’s role as replacing expensive and unpopular pieces of kit like those awful hand-held scanners delivery people are forced to use and invariably hate, with lighter, more efficient, effective and intelligent alternatives. And in some cases wearables might end up helping us interact better with our smartphones and tablets, a sort of companion tech.
Think about wearables in a business context NOW
The wearables revolution might take place next week or it may never take place. But if it does, it’s good to be prepared. You might want to think carefully about whether there are any opportunities within your small business to use enterprise wearables to improve your bottom line.
As they say on the Search Mobile Computing website:
“Because wearable computing devices let users go hands-free, there are a lot of ways they could be useful at work. For emergency personnel, search and rescue teams and mobile warehouse workers, wearables can provide high-tech mobility and tracking features. Smartglasses could be useful for technicians who need to consult a manual or a set of schematics while performing repairs.
Wearables may also be able to remotely manage equipment, such as machinery on an assembly line, making the workplace safer for employees. Workers who need to wear special suits, such as environmental disaster teams, could have hands-free access to data via smartglasses or a smartwatch. Any user who needs instant access to important data — members of sales teams, real estate agents, lawyers, rural doctors, law enforcement and fire fighters, military personnel and more — can benefit from using wearables in the workplace.”
What do you think?
Can you see your business harnessing enterprise wearables in future? If so, how might they help you improve your bottom line?
All change… a few years down the line since it suddenly went mainstream, what’s going on in the social media world? What’s still relevant and what’s old-school? We thought it’d be interesting to take a look at the current social media landscape and look at what’s changed.
Twitter goes mega… and stays that way
When BBC Radio 4 adopts a technology, you know it’s firmly bedded into the consciousness of the nation. More or less every Radio 4 programme has its own Twitter account these days, and they have their own hashtags too. The same goes for telly – Twitter is the media’s favourite social medium. All of which means it’s unlikely to die a death any time soon.
The same goes for Facebook… but perhaps to a lesser extent? While TV ads often include Twitter handles they include Facebook URLs less frequently. On the other hand Facebook is still big on the content marketing horizon, more useful to some businesses than others but still more or less a ‘must have’ for big brands.
Does anyone still use Foursquare?
Does anyone still use what? The same goes for Pinterest: after a dramatic digital marketer-driven flurry of initial interest, which saw long waiting lists of people and businesses wanting to join the network, interest fell right off.
How come Pinterest was a flash in the content marketing plan? If your business is visual, say you sell fast moving consumer goods, Pinterest works for social media marketing. If you’re a VA provider like us, there’s not a lot we can say in pictures. Our products and services are much better expressed in writing, not images.
Social media and content marketing
Without social media, there’d wouldn’t be such a thing as content marketing. You create brilliant content, publish it, share it on social media, Google or whoever notices your content has been shared a lot, they assume it’s popular, worth sharing, and – bingo – over time your natural search visibility improves and your site ends up on page one of Google… at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work! In real life it’s easier said than done.
Content marketing is bigger than ever. It isn’t going to go away. Ergo, nor are social media. They’re here to stay.
Do you use LinkedIn actively? What about G+?
You might not be an active user. But most working folk have a LinkedIn account. It’s still the foremost business network in the western world. And while Google Plus has failed to deliver the mass appeal the search engine wanted it to, they’re plugging away with business pages in an effort to capture and keep more users.
Because Google rules UK search, having a G+ presence and sharing your content there is still a jolly good idea. But it might not be around forever, being most popular with techies and developers.
The rise and rise of content marketing means social networks are jammed with spammers. Some businesses – mostly brands – pre-write Tweets to drip-feed throughout the day on a 24/7 basis, something ‘real time’ followers rarely appreciate.
You can buy followers on Twitter and Facebook, buy Likes, buy shares, buy re-Tweets, all of which are ‘un-natural’ and frowned upon by Google, which gets inaccurate data about the popularity of content as a result, which means the entire content marketing edifice is faulty.
If you do social media naturally, it’s potentially a whole lot more powerful than playing the system.
What’s the next big thing?
It looks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Most small British businesses have a foothold in all three. Of course there are hundreds more social networks, some of which are tightly targeted to the specific needs of small demographic groups, others of which are Facebook and Twitter wannabees. Who knows what the next big thing will be? Nobody!
Which social network supports your business best?
We’d love to know which social network – if any – your business really couldn’t do without.
In the days before t’internet you wouldn’t stand a chance of making a business work with a remote team. There was no 100% reliable way to communicate in writing apart from the post and as far as telecomms were concerned, you only had access to faxes and landlines. But nowadays everyone’s doing it.
While the promise of home working for everyone has fallen very flat indeed, many businesses now employ remote workers since the web actively facilitates remote working excellence. Take the marketing agency world, which is stuffed with remote ‘virtual’ agencies made up of talented individuals who work from home and closely collaborate on client projects as and when required. Or the telemarketing sector, where telesales and service agents work remotely from home.
Here are four top reasons why it make sense to create a remote team.
Cutting commuting time
The roads are more crowded than ever. Public transport is getting more crowded too, thanks to the extra demand generated by people ditching their cars for more eco-friendly commutes. Petrol costs a fortune. Parking costs a fortune. Depending on the traffic it can take forever to get to work, and it’s perfectly possible to already be knackered when you finally arrive, in no shape for a challenging day the office.
As the HR World website says:
“Today’s workers are less willing to sacrifice their personal lives to the demands of an arbitrary, nine-to-five, Monday through Friday office routine. Since many households have two breadwinners, families must make time during the business day for medical emergencies, school functions and other important matters. An employer who accommodates these needs will be rewarded with more productive, loyal and happy employees.”
Setting up a remote team means the people who work for and with you don’t have to handle commuter hell every morning, which means they’re happier, more lively, more awake and more on the ball. Plus, they don’t have to spend their entire salary on work travel, which makes for even happier workers.
Getting the exact levels of expertise you want
You might live in a rural area with no large towns or cities nearby. In which case your ‘pool’ of potential local employees might not deliver the exact expertise you need. Rather than take someone on who isn’t quite right, remote working lets you tap into expert support elsewhere in Britain or even abroad.
Systems to support remote workers
The online world also provides a massive choice of software and tools designed to support remote working, everything from accounts packages to all-singing, all-dancing project management and multi-location collaboration tools. Innovative telecommunications tools like Skype help make comms even more effective. And email means we can send and receive vital information in micro-seconds. All of which makes remote working more of a valid business decision than ever before.
Enjoying easier and cheaper business expansion
If you’re located somewhere expensive like the south east, you might not be able to afford to expand into bigger premises. Even if you’re somewhere where rental business property is affordable, you might not want to place any extra strain on your bottom line. Remote working means you can expand quickly, even dramatically, without putting your survival at risk.
Providing flexible work arrangements can lead to better hiring and retention, increased productivity and a healthier, happier business. Have you taken the plunge? We’d love to hear about your experiences, so feel free to leave a comment.
The short answer is ‘yes’. You can run a small business from a mobile device, whether it’s a tablet, phablet or smartphone. And there is, literally, an app for almost everything you need to do on a business basis, from making changes to your website to emailing your client database with special offers, holding client meetings and developing new products while you’re on the move. With a bit of luck you might not even need an office.
Smartphones, tablets and business apps all mean start ups, SMEs and one man bands don’t need to be tethered to a desk. Which can save you a small fortune hiring office space. A summer 2013 poll by PeoplePerHour revealed 90% of SMEs already use mobile phones and apps to handle business, almost 75% on a daily basis. The subsequent mobile revolution means the figures are probably much higher for 2015.
It’s no surprise when working on the hoof means you can spend more time keeping your customers and employees happy. And the sheer number of apps designed to drive leads and sales means there’s a good potential to improve your bottom line while you’re at it.
There are apps for customer service, content creation, financial stuff including accounts, cashflow, modelling and projections. You can pay people and accept payments on a smartphone. Engage with social media on the move. Find suppliers, buy stock and place orders online. So what are innovative business owners in 2015 using most often to manage and grow their businesses?
Creating and storing documents
If you’ve ever used GoogleDrive or Dropbox you’ll understand how handy cloud-based solutions are for creating and managing every kind of business document any time, anywhere.
Electronic time management
Evernote is a popular tool for managing projects and ideas, and million of business owners swear by the ‘personal database’ functionality it delivers.
Generating great customer relationships
Have you heard of the Zendesk app? It’s a brilliant way to get to grips with the best in CRM. The same goes for social media, a proven way to stay connected with prospects and customers. Tweetdeck, for example, lets you interact on Twitter in such a way as you never miss a message or lose an opportunity. It even lets you pre-load Tweets and social updates so they go out to your schedule without you having to do a thing.
Harnessing the mobile phone bit
There’s a large choice of telecomms tools online, some of which let you talk face to face via video. Take Skype, Viber and Fring, all of which provide great value voice over IP solutions allowing you to keep in touch with people all over the world for next to nothing. No more terrifyingly expensive overseas call charges! Telephone call collaboration tools are great too, perfect for setting up calls between multiple people and often a whole lot cheaper than travelling to meet face to face.
And there’s more…
What else can you do to run your business via your smartphone? You can take top quality images and load them to your website or email them to prospects and customers in seconds. You can track deliveries. You can create and edit any number of office-type documents – Word, Powerpoint, Excel, whatever.
What else? You can create and edit videos and animations, complete forms, sign documents, add products to your website or remove them. You can write in your blog, add QR codes or scan existing QR codes, run marketing campaigns, track inventory, do your accounts and invoicing, deliver sales materials, give presentations and take video conference calls… you name it, you can do it via your phone.
You have a particularly tough client, difficult for one reason or another. It might be a relatively simple matter of their being allergic to the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, basically just rude. Someone might be emotionally immature, inexperienced in business, verbally abusive or need their hand holding at every stage.
Whether they’re chronically indecisive or impossible to pin down, never make firm decisions, delay endlessly themselves but expect you to act instantly, talk down to you, pay late every month or treat you like you’re an idiot, there are ways of handling it.
You have two choices. It’s up to you whether or not you want to engage with them or walk away. If you choose to accept the challenge of working with difficult people it’s almost always a matter of effective communication, harnessing your superior emotional intelligence plus our top tips below to help you cope with other people’s dysfunctions and stay relatively sane.
Effective communication – 8 tips for dealing with difficult clients
How to handle a challenging working relationship?
- Be firm. Sometimes knowing how to deal with difficult interpersonal situation effectively simply involves standing up for yourself, not letting someone unreasonable walk all over you. Because bullies are so often cowards, refusing to let them get away with their behaviour can be an extremely effective way to get them to back down, back off and treat you with a suitable amount of respect and consideration. But you need to make your feelings clear from the offset so they know where they stand from the start.
- Be clear. If someone is rude to you, tell them they’ve been rude and be clear that you’re not prepared to be treated that way. If they continue, you’re within your rights to tell them to sling their hook… in the politest possible way, of course!
- Put everything in writing. It’s good to get in the habit of putting everything in writing. If someone complains, for instance, respond by phone if you like but follow up with a short email confirming the points you’ve discussed. Make sure everything is 100% clear from the start to avoid confusion, misunderstandings and game-playing.
- Learn from a professional. Dealing with difficult people is such a big deal there are specialist business training courses and coaching services to show you how. If it’s something you feel you’ll be dealing with frequently, signing up for a course mighty be the best thing you ever did.
- Tap into the power of problem solving. When you satisfactorily resolve an issue for someone, for example a customer, it can make them a great deal more loyal, friendly and forthcoming than if they never had a problem in the first place. If a working relationship has had a rocky start, resolving things can create a strong and positive bond. On the other hand if you’ve knocked yourself out to improve matters and the relationship’s still rubbish, you might feel it’s time to walk away. Again, be honest and straight to avoid confusion. You could say something like: “I’ve tried everything I know but we just don’t seem to be a good cultural fit. You would be better off with someone who… (etc)”
- Use empathy. Sometimes just putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is enough to see the wood for the trees, relating to them in a way that makes them feel properly heard and understood. When someone’s being difficult, it’s often because they don’t feel they’re being taken seriously. On the other hand some people are just naturally difficult, whether or not you ‘get’ where they’re coming from.
- Meet in person. Email and telephone communications are excellent, a great way to save time and make business efficiencies. But when things get tricky, you can’t beat meeting face to face to warm up a struggling commercial relationship and bring it back in line: positive, mutually advantageous, courteous and trusting.
- Read the book ‘Fierce Conversations’. Susan Scott’s excellent guide delivers seven key principles of so-called ‘fierce’ conversations with tough people. It’s an eye-opening way to transform difficult relationships and put you in a much better position to handle powerful emotions in yourself and others with confidence and flair.
What about your tips?
If you’ve ever experienced resounding success handling someone spectacularly difficult, we’d love to know your top tips!
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