“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
Our 24/7 instant access world has taken the “person” out of “personal.” This is especially important for virtual assistants. Until we all turn into robots with hard drives, I suggest we all take a breath and slow down long enough to remember that we are all living, breathing people with feelings who get passionate, tired, burned out, excited, worried, and overwhelmed – even if we work thousands of miles apart from one another.
That is why it matters when someone calls us on the phone – one-on-one – to say, “Carol, I was thinking about you. What’s going on?” It doesn’t get any more personal than hearing your own name by someone who genuinely cares.
Human beings have a driving need to feel important and special and yet, despite all the public electronic chatter that purports to be personal, it is very easy to feel faceless and like a number. We yearn for connection. The danger is that the same devices that connect us can also separate us.
Take a look around at any restaurant to see how many people are engaging with their devices and not the people at the table. Or how about when you are at a party and the person you are speaking with is looking over your shoulder to see who else is at the event? Or feel the difference between someone who periodically checks his phone during a meeting versus the same person who intentionally powers it down in order to give her undivided attention.
It is important to note the particular challenge specific to the virtual assisting world and it is found in these statistics about communication.
Communication by the Numbers
Impact of the words we say: 7%
Impact of the tone, volume, and speed that we say the words: 38%
Impact of the body language we use while speaking: 55%
It is easy to see how important body language is to human communication and by the sheer nature of the work, this is something that virtual assistants often don’t have. It certainly explains why we have miscommunications and misinterpretations of information.
For these reasons, I am a big fan of Skype and/or any video-conferencing software that enables us to look at another person’s eyes and read their body language, even when you are not in the same room or even the same continent. These technologies are especially useful when a tricky subject needs to be tackled, such as salary negotiations or discussing a disagreement. As much as we love them, email and texts are simply inadequate when it comes to handling sensitive situations.
Keeping it personal and making the other person the most important thing is respectful and is noticed. To make people a priority translates into success, loyalty, and trust. Our devices are simply tools to achieve our goals. They are a means to an end, not an end itself.
True story: Heather could have sent an email to her VA colleague but chose to pick up the phone instead. They chatted about weekend plans and then Heather clarified the business reason for her call which had to do with scheduling a hard-to-book meeting between their executives. The call resulted in an easy exchange and lasted five minutes. Even though it would have been shorter to write and send an email, Heather knows that it was totally worth it to make the call. Why?
These kinds of calls, made selectively, build and strengthen relationships and “emotional capital.” Heather knows that she and her colleague need to depend on one another and it helps if they “like” each other. In our virtual world, email is toneless and impersonal.
An hour after that phone conversation, Heather received an email from her colleague who thanked her for the call. Heather knows the power of the “personal touch.” The unspoken message is “You made time for me. I feel special.” Special feels good, doesn’t it?
This is precisely why Starbucks is so popular. Your name gets written on a cup and spoken out loud at least twice. And your beverage is made to your exact specifications and if it is not up to your standards, the drink gets made again. That’s personal.
Making it personal with the people in your virtual and real world will make you stand out and will help you to succeed. The personal touch will be valued, appreciated, and rewarded.
10 Ways to Show the Personal Touch
- Use Skype or video conferencing for certain meetings with clients and colleagues.
- Be an undistracted listener. Can’t you tell when someone is doing something else while you are on the phone with them? However, if you take notes by typing them during the call, be sure to tell the person. That is respectful.
- Make an unexpected phone call and leave a sincere message if you get the person’s voicemail.
- Send a hand-written thank you note.
- Choose a small but thoughtful gift based on a conversation. (Favorite flower, cookie, candy, music, etc.)
- Remember birthdays. Bonus touch: Homemade cupcakes
- Intentionally power down your phone for a meeting (Watch the reaction.)
- Have tech-free meals and offer undivided attention
- Follow-up with someone who you know had a bad day yesterday
- Remember names of people who are important to your employer, colleague, client, etc. and pronounce them correctly. In doubt? Ask. Still in doubt? Ask again.
Learn more about Bonnie and view opportunities to see her speak live on her website!
Bonnie is a co-founder of New York Celebrity Assistants and is a contributing writer to Executive Secretary Magazine and SmartCEO Magazine. Through blog posts like this one, Bonnie raises relevant and timely workplace issues written to inspire positive change in the relationships between assistants, employers, and co-workers.
Other ways to follow Bonnie: www.bonnielowkramen.com
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