“I’m not you.”

A few years back, I was giving some fatherly advice to my then 20-year-old son. I was certain that the advice I prescribed him was wise and would be carefully considered. After I finished pouring forth my golden words of wisdom, much to my surprise, rather than getting a thankful in-kind expression of gratitude, he simply looked me square in the eyes and said, “I’m not you.” And to make his point perfectly clear, he immediately repeated the phrase, even gratuitously prefacing it with, “You don’t realize…I’m not you.”

Too often, we communicate as though we’re talking to someone who sees the world as we do.

Too often, we communicate as though we’re talking to someone who sees the world as we do.

OK, you can see where that was headed. To my credit, I didn’t counter with, “Of course you’re not me, but consider these issues and possible solutions.” I was actually struck with the simplicity and power of his reply. Since then, I’ve thought about the line, “I’m not you” when reflecting on how consumers receive our marketing messages, how we communicate with an upset customer when we help them resolve a complaint with a Diamond Certified company and even how I relate to our staff.

I’m Not You: 4 Steps to Improve Connections with People
This might seem a bit squishy, but bear with me. Thinking about this will make you more aware of people’s unique frames of perception and help you discern their method of thinking. You’ll then be able to connect to where they are on things in language that makes sense to them.

1. Your customers aren’t inside your head; they’re inside their own heads.
So, learn about what’s inside their heads. The key question is not, “If I were you, what would I do?” It’s more like, “I’m not you. You are you. Who are you? How do you see the world? How do you see our brand? What are your expectations, fair or otherwise?”

2. How do they best process information and express their views?once upon
faceSome people readily use numbers and probability in their thought processes, while others use stories. Some prefer visuals to understand or express key thoughts. When you engage on any topic, get a feel for how they think about the topic, the words they use and their communication style.

3. Review the overlap.
At some point in the connection process, you and/or your company need to see where you’re at with a potential client. This is an opportunity to use their revealed mode of communication to first cover areas where you feel that understanding and agreement are strongest. Gain confirmation on this overlap of understanding before moving on.

4. Discuss the divide and bridge it.
Finally, use their communication and thinking style to discuss where you believe there is confusion or disagreement. Since you built trust and understanding by communicating in a mode that’s most accessible to their thinking and have already demonstrated an understanding of where your agreements are, you’ll have the best chance of discovering and bridging the divides. Make sure you “give them the power” at some point by asking them to describe the divide and possible questions and solutions to bridge it.

One last thought: Does your staff ever unconsciously exhibit moral superiority because they believe they’re right on the issue? Hey, they might be right, but enhancing communication requires them to be open to views and thought processes that they believe to be flawed. “I’m not you” should be taught to staff—it’s the customer needing to feel an attitude of openness and understanding to their own frame of thinking and experiences.

Jim Stein, Founder and CEO

About Jim Stein, Founder and CEO

Jim Stein is the founder and CEO of American Ratings Corporation. Through his interactions with more than 6,000 local companies and analysis of over 1 million consumer survey responses, Jim has developed easy-to-understand strategies for consumers to enjoy consistently positive customer experiences and for companies to better satisfy customers, increase referral rates and reduce customer attrition.
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