Reading Emotions Through The Written Word
by Josh Martin, CrossFit for Glory
In the world of social interaction, humans have a multitude of different ways to communicate. Today, I want to highlight three of them:
• Written word (via emails and texts)
• Spoken word (via an audio medium such as a phone)
We are gym owners; business men and women.
At the end of the day, being in business is simply an excuse for being in relationship with people. But ours is rare in the sense that folks frequently get to interact with the CEO on a daily basis. This means that deep emotional bonds are often formed. I truly believe that this is important to ensure the success of your clients, as the better you get to know them, the better you can shepherd them along in their journey to fitness…or whatever reason it was that they came to see you.
But that deep relationship is a double edged sword at times.
Relationships are highly emotional, for better and for worse.
For instance, when someone makes the decision to leave your gym, no matter how many times it has happened, I’ll bet that it hits you on a deeply personal level. It should if you’re human.
Well rest assured that the same is true for the person leaving as well. It is just as tough for them, many times more than they lead on.
Last year, for the first time in our gyms five year history, we raised rates. I knew there would be some backlash; people rarely like change, especially when it comes to things costing more money.
I got a few texts and emails from folks. Most wanted clarification (lesson learned – be crystal clear about exactly how things would change), but some voiced their displeasure. Taken at face value on paper, these people were angry, called my character into question, and made it seem like this decision made me a pathetic human being.
But I knew that wasn’t their true message. I can say this with certainty because the relationships we had established with people gave me insight into their real intention: they wanted their voice to be heard.
Everybody, at some point or another, will have their “thing” that they feel passionate enough about to speak up. For these folks, it was a rate change.
For others, it might be the introduction of a new service offering or your programming, and how you could do it better.
Here’s the thing about the written word: it doesn’t offer much feedback for the receiver other than being words on a screen. If someone says ‘Yes’ in response to a lengthy question, does it mean they’re being short because they are annoyed with your lack of brevity? Not one bit. Even when folks try their best to get their point across in a way that mimics the “style” you might get in person, it never works out that way.
The very nature of the written word these days, at least when it comes to back and forth communication, is that you simply can’t assume to know the emotions of the sender.
One step past the written word in terms of more emotional, and thus effective, communication is the spoken word. In speaking with someone over the phone, you can capture their tonality, voice inflections, etc – basically little social cues that give more insight into their message. Are they joking? Are they angry? Audio allows for the answering of these questions.
Finally, at the most effective end of the spectrum is interacting face to face. With audio only, you can’t read body language or facial expressions. Face to face is the best way to really get a true feel for someones message.
Here’s my advice when you are the sender: use the communication medium that best matches the level of emotion you want to convey.
As for being on the receiving end? Don’t read into things (see what I did there?). Take them for what they are, at face value. If you have doubts, call the person. Or better yet, schedule a time to meet face to face.
When our rate change email went out, I got an email back from one lady that said: “Wow, this really doesn’t sound like you, but I know you well enough to know that the way I’m taking it is not your intention.” I invited her to come and have a face to face chat. She brought me coffee…
And she is still a member.
CrossFit For Glory