Now that the holidays are over, look back at all the people you saw at parties, in the stores, and in homes. With whom did you have the best or most memorable conversations? What aspects of the conversations make them stick in your mind?
Two responses are most common among the many received when I ask these questions:
- The topic was deeper than the typical chatter about the length of lines at checkout counters, the weather, or having eaten too much. Even if only briefly, something that really mattered came to the fore. You connected, supported each other, and left feeling that you were not alone.
- You talked with someone who wanted to listen. Surely you know people who talk endlessly about themselves. In those rare instances when they stop long enough to ask you a question, shortly after you begin to respond they interrupt to tell you about themselves again. In memorable conversations, the person to whom you are talking is not just interesting; they are interested. They seem to honestly care about you, listen well, and don’t dominate.
Remember these simple things when you talk to your clients, and especially your grieving clients. Most people they encounter are afraid to ask about their grief or their experience, so most conversations center only on superficial details that don’t matter. You provide them with support they aren’t receiving elsewhere by gently inviting them to talk. Remember, the client always has the choice of closing any door you open, but they will likely be grateful that someone cared to ask and really wanted to know the answer.
As you talk, keep the focus on the grieving person. Consciously avoid the temptation to interrupt their story to tell your own, no matter how relevant you think it may be. Listen well, and ask questions based on what they say. Afterwards, thank them for sharing with you and tell them you will always listen to the truth even when it’s hard.
If you can follow these two basic steps, you will go into the new year building deeper and more satisfying relationships with your grieving clients, and they will reward you with loyalty and referrals.
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