The Value of Putting Someone at Ease
July 12, 2016 | Business and Careers
The first and only time I had a car accident was a real eye-opener. It was my fault—and although no one was hurt, I was carrying around a bunch of guilt. Plus, I’d never filed an insurance claim, so I was anxious about the whole process because I didn’t know what to expect.
Thankfully, the claims person at my insurance company put me at ease from the start. “Just remember, although this is new to you, we see this every day. So let me tell you what the process is going to be,” he said. “The car doors can be tricky to fix. If we have to replace the doors, then it’s a big claim, which can affect your future premiums. If we can fix the doors, then it’s probably not a big claim, which doesn’t affect your premium. So once we know what we’re dealing with, I’ll let you know how it was fixed just so you know what to expect.”
I count that experience among the many that have made me think very intentionally about the importance of communicating from the perspective of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.” What might be a common, routine situation for me might be scary for someone else because they don’t live it every day or haven’t had the same experiences that I’ve had. So when I’m talking to someone about a topic or an issue that may be new to them, I’ve learned to take the time to help them understand the context: what’s happening, what’s important, what’s not as important, what they need to do and what they can expect.
In the workplace (and in all of life, for that matter) putting people at ease pays big dividends.
1. You’ll encourage loyalty. I love my car insurance company right now. Because the people there were so patient and helpful, they lifted away the anxiety I felt about the whole unfamiliar experience of having an accident and filing a claim. Today I often find myself in situations in which I’ll try to do the same by using phrases like “Stop me if this is going into too much detail, but I want to share what to expect since this is your first time going through this.”
2. You’ll achieve better outcomes. When you provide context in a personalized, one-to-one way, you help people feel more confident about what comes next. And when people feel confident, they bring their whole ability to problem solve to the table rather than having it be narrowed by anxiety or assumptions.
3. It’s personally rewarding. In the process of putting people at ease, you get to share your expertise. Everybody likes to talk about what he or she does, right? It’s personally rewarding to be considered and recognized as an expert. For some people, sharing their knowledge is the most satisfying part of the job.
Think about the experiences you’ve had that illustrate the value of putting people at ease. Have you ever felt better after a doctor took the time to explain in layman’s terms a diagnosis or procedure—or shared that your shoulder injury is actually pretty common for someone like you who plays tennis regularly? Are you more inclined to stick with a phone company whose customer service people take the time to clearly explain the fees and charges on your bill?
Now think about how you can apply that same kind of patience and thoughtfulness to situations in which you’re the expert, especially as a leader in the workplace. By taking the time to put others at ease, you’ll encourage their loyalty, achieve better outcomes and maybe even feel more professionally satisfied.