Game-Changing Words

June 8th 2015

Recently, one of my friends was knee-deep in a very difficult client relationship. She had worked with this client for many years, during which time he had always been relatively unapproachable and untrusting. Sometimes he was rude and disrespectful. Always quick to find fault, he never showed his appreciation for her counsel, support, or expertise. Sound familiar?

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The relationship had reached a low point, and my friend knew she did not want to continue working with this client under the current circumstances. So she decided to sit down and talk with him. She told him what she thought about their relationship and how it felt to work with him. As you can imagine, she put a lot of thought into how she would address the issue.

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In spite of her effort, she wasn’t breaking through to her client, and she knew it. Finally, after an hour of this, she was exhausted, and simply said: “I just want you to know that I care about you. I care about your family. I care about your business.” That’s when the game changed. From that moment forward, the client became much more open, trusting, and positive. My friend and her client are on firm footing today, and their enhanced relationship is driving the business to new heights.

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I’ve been wondering why the words “I care about you…” are so important. After all, every website, every ad, every brochure seems to tout how much “we care about our clients.” What’s different? The pronouns. “I care about you” speaks directly to the heart and mind of a single person. There is no mistaking the intent of this statement. 

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“We care about our clients” is more abstract and distant; it’s really nothing more than a policy statement. Real relationships are built one person at a time, one conversation at a time, one heart at a time. Therefore, it makes sense to move your language from the collective we to the singular I. Of course, delivering the message face-to-face is most effective.

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Is it risky? Does it make you vulnerable to say something so personal? Do you risk your gruff old client scoffing at your statement? Maybe. But if it is the truth, say it. Your clients (and your team members, by the way) need to hear directly from you how you feel about them. They need to know that you, individually, give a hoot about them and their well-being. When it’s your personal truth and not just a policy, nothing else comes close.

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leadership, communication, management

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