For years, corporations have seen the impact customer service can have on the bottom line. Training platforms have been developed, trends mapped out to show correlations, incentives are offered. And yet, even knowing the importance of building strong human connections, some business owners and employees avoid developing the skill. The psychological term is called Cognitive Dissonance. The Oxford Dictionary refers to Cognitive Dissonance as “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.” This state of being is especially applicable in our careers and can be our greatest hinderance in achieving the goals we have set out for ourselves, particularly in the service industry if there is discomfort in building human connections.
A popular notion around achieving goals is that they need to be smart goals, or should I say SMART goals. They need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. If we can check off all of criteria, it makes a great goal to set and we can move forward with it, right? Wrong. It does no good to check off the criteria if in the end we are uncomfortable with doing the actual task. When there are conflicting feelings about completing a task (cognitive dissonance), something must change to reduce the discomfort. Often, this is when we decide that the goal we set for ourselves was simply not important and our time is needed elsewhere. In
customer service industries, this is especially problematic. We understand that customer interaction, outreach, and connection are fundamental principles in growing the business and customer retention. However, when cognitive dissonance exists in knowing that those items are important but there is discomfort in executing a great customer experience, the harmony sought is generally avoiding the task altogether. The customer experience is basic human connection. Some people are, by nature, better at connecting with others. So how can those that struggle improve this skill?
As with building any skill, you need to have a strong foundation. The foundation to human connection is having a strong sense of self. There is an area of the brain called the Medial Prefrontal Cortex that sits right between your eyes and is believed to be where your sense of self is held. This area of the brain is activated when you think about who you are, your favorite things, what you believe makes you unique. The more active this area of the brain is when we are in social situations, the more we can find social harmony with others. So, it could be said, to build better human connections, we need to be more self-aware. Self-awareness requires a deep understanding of our past and current events that help shape who we are today and how we see the world. Creating activities for your business setting regarding self-reflection can strengthen your team and your collaborative ability to reach other goals.
How can you gain self-awareness for yourself and help your team learn the same skill?
Make a life road map. What are the key events in your life that have shaped you into becoming who you are?
Build in meditation and reflection in the workplace. Go for a 15 minute walk break with a specific topic to ponder, such as “How can I make a difference today?”, “How can I be helpful to a colleague?”, “How can I make sure I connect with my clients today?”.
Seek feedback. Recognize why you might not be open to feedback and why you get defensive. Is it the person delivering the feedback? Is it the truth?
Conduct “Walk and Talks” out of the normal work setting; go for a walk with your employee and have general conversations about how they are feeling.
End of day reflection in the workplace. Have team members put a green (good day) or red (bad day) post-it note on their workspace at the end of the day. As a manager you can get a sense of the mental state of your team. As an employee, it forces self-reflection. No one sets out for a bad day, and by understanding that you will need to self-evaluate, you will tend to move out of negative thinking more quickly. But remove the post-it notes to start with a clean slate the next workday.