Fall off the Cliff

Long title, I know, but it’s an issue that we all face at some point or another in business. And it’s very frustration.

In this age of quick emails and misunderstood subtlety  communication can be harder than ever. We sit on messages longer than we should out of paralyzing fear of how to say it. We never say it. The gulf widens between us and suddenly one falls over the proverbial cliff. Communication ends. The relationship ends. Or at the very least is forever injured. We wonder what was never said. And we never learn from the unspoken words.

It doesn’t have to be this way! It doesn’t! We can stop ourselves from being that one that falls off the planet. And we can send out a search party of true concern and caring. We can bridge the gap before it engulfs us all.

Before you fall off the cliff:
1) Honesty is the first place to start. “But I’m going to hurt their feelings.” “But I haven’t quite decided.” “But I don’t want them to get the wrong idea.” Too often we let our own concerns about what MIGHT happen stop us from being honest. However, without actual communication, the recipient is forced to imagine the worst. Maybe you’ve found a better connection. Maybe you don’t need the service anymore. Maybe you need to take a different path. All of those honest answers are far better than the imagined disappointment on the other end.
2) Don’t be cliche or sugary. I know it’s industry standard, but the rejection letters I get for my novel all the read the same which starts to feel artificial. Take a moment and write a real response. Don’t just say what everyone says. Be personal and concentrate on your woking relationship.
3) Throw in some generosity. A let-down email doesn’t have to be the end. Maybe the product or service isn’t right for you today. Is there an introduction you can make? Is there a referral that would be appropriate? Is there another way you can work together? Sometimes the best thing you can offer is an even better connection!
4) Do it today! Why wait another moment? The longer you wait, the bigger the gulf grows. The more misunderstanding sets in. The more paralyzing it becomes. And the greater chance you have of falling off the cliff. Don’t wait. Don’t fall. Connect!

When it’s time to send out the search party:
1) Follow up. Sometimes it’s just a matter of asking “What’s Up?” Be kind and understanding. Realize that sometimes we just get distracted. Sometimes life issues come up. Sometimes we just forget. Sometimes we’re afraid of the cliff. A kind follow up email or phone call (whichever fits your personality and industry) is all it takes.
2) Be ready! Sometimes staying two steps ahead of the other person can make all the difference. When you do finally hear back, you’ll have your response, your contract, your next step ready. You can be the acceleration the rest of the transaction needs!
3) Offer alternatives. While you shouldn’t jump to conclusions, be aware that people often fall off the cliff because the original proposal just doesn’t fit, work, or help. When you follow up, kindly offer some other ideas or referrals. The recipient will either be thankful to you for the new path or be humbled by your offer and return to your original proposal.
3) Wait a bit, then go for it. If it hasn’t been too long, have a bit of patience. If it’s been truly too long, don’t wait any longer to try to reconnect. The sooner, the better.

Remember, even though it’s a tongue in cheek idioms, that sense that someone has Fallen Off the Face of the Planet is singed with real fear. We worry that something bad has happened. We worry that it was something we did. We worry that we weren’t deserving of the connection in the first place. Resolve it today!

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Photo Attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:JJ_Harrison