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Expert: 'Intangibles key to communication'
Dec 27, 2012 | 2257 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Communication expert Matt Townsend spoke recently to the Davis Chamber of Commerce. 
Photo by Jenniffer Wardell | Davis Clipper
Communication expert Matt Townsend spoke recently to the Davis Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Jenniffer Wardell | Davis Clipper


Clipper Staff Writer

 KAYSVILLE — Whatever a customer is yelling at you about, it’s probably not the real reason he’s mad. 

According to communication and relationship expert Matt Townsend, most people argue about physical things because they make them a symbol for the intangible emotional needs they really want fulfilled. Speaking to the Davis Chamber of Commerce last week, Townsend guided people through the process of finding out what the real problem is.

“The issues that we think we’re dealing with are smoke,” he said. ”But when there’s smoke, there’s fire.” 

Townsend compared the situation to couples who start fights over ridiculous things to mask more serious issues in a relationship. He once worked with a couple who came in arguing about the fact that the husband wouldn’t hang a door in one of their five bathrooms. When Townsend asked the wife if a door would save the marriage, she said it wasn’t really about the door. It was about love. 

“Most people want intangible things like respect and appreciation,” he said. “One of our biggest problems is we don’t know how to create intangibles, so we end up fighting about something else.” 

It’s like focusing on the bars of a cage, when it’s really the spaces between them that keep the animals away from the zoo visitors. 

“If there’s four feet of space between the bars, people aren’t going to be safe,” he said. “But we never focus on the space. We always focus on the bars.”

According to Townsend, there are seven basic intangible needs shared by all people: safety, trust, appreciation, respect, validation, encouragement and dedication. Safety can cover both physical and social safety, while trust can include both a person’s character and competency. 

“When these needs aren’t being met, we feel starved,” he said. 

This starvation can also affect our relationships with our bosses and co-workers. In the difficult economy, many employees are trying to work longer hours and increase their responsibilities in order to make up for smaller budgets. 

“Everyone’s trying to do more with less,” he said. “We’re getting tired burning the candle at both ends.” 

These behaviors isolate employees, making it harder for them to understand each other. 

“To figure out what will make me happy, you have to get inside my head,” Townsend said. 

Instead, employees need to focus more on working together. Not only does this lessen relationship troubles among co-workers, but it increases the likelihood of figuring out what an individual customer needs. 

“NASCAR drivers drive bumper to bumper because the drafting helps them go faster,” said Townsend. “But it doesn’t work if the cars aren’t going in the same direction. And in business, it doesn’t work if you don’t have a common goal.”

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