Are You Suffering From LAHI?
Riding my bike this morning, I passed a bus stop where commuters were in cue, lined up single file and waiting. What instantly struck me was that all ten people were doing the exact same thing. Their heads were down, and their eyes and fingers were affixed to their cellphones. Complete silence. No one was talking with anyone inches away.
That’s far from a unique sight. That solitary state has become an alarming standard in society. Whether in an elevator, at a café or in the lunch room at your company, LAHI has taken over.
LAHI--the Lost Art of Human Interaction. A malaise that is stifling work relations.
More and more, we become encased under an imaginary dome of silence carved by tweets, instant messages, emails and instagrams. We spend more time reading and typing, and less time talking and listening. Face-to-face exchanges are as obsolete as the rotary-dial phone and rolodex.
Snap out of it! Be your own medic and cure LAHI with regular practices that initiate in-person conversations. Hide your cell and try these five tips to get conversation savvy:
- Learn the name of the barista or server at your favorite coffee house. If he doesn’t wear a name tag, try this to break the ice: “We see each other pretty regularly and I’m sorry that I don’t know your name. I’m Linda, and you are who?”
- Next time visiting your top customer’s office building, stop by the receptionist’s desk and introduce yourself. Activate the small talk by saying, “It’s great to see someone who’s always got a smile on their face. What’s your secret to having such a sparkling attitude?”
- Schedule with your boss a 15-minute weekly meeting to touch base about a specific opportunity, issue or learning experience. Plan to meet in an informal but public setting, such as a break room or office cafeteria where others can see you having a conversation.
- At least weekly, give an in-person compliment to a co-worker. Walk over to their work station and air your appreciation. Here’s an example: “Helen, you really helped me last week by sharing your notes from our team meeting that I couldn’t attend. You have an outstanding technique for identifying important information that was shared and follow-up actions needed. Thank you for helping me to get up to speed so quickly.”
- Schedule a Skype session with a West-coast based team member to get her feedback about handling a hot customer complaint. Come prepared with several open-ended questions so that you spend most of your time listening, rather than dominating the conversation. Questions like, “What’s one thing that you see us doing that could have contributed to the problem?” “What should we do or stop doing to improve our process?” and “What are your recommendations for approaching the customer with our response?” Plan a follow-up Skype session to debrief on how your customer contact went and talk over other opportunities for sharing more face time.
Overcome LAHI. Find ways to deliberately start live conversations—ideally, in person or technology assisted. If you don’t see results, let me know what’s still ailing you.