What DOES that Yellow Light Mean?

by | Apr 24, 2011

How to handle hiccups in conversations with prospective clients
There are two kinds of people in the world…
…those who slow down and get ready to stop at yellow lights and those who speed up to beat the light.
And yellow lights don’t just happen in traffic. They show up in every conversation. Yellow lights are signals that something is not connecting, that something is getting lost in translation.
And yellow lights happen all the time in conversations with prospective clients. How you react to them has everything to do with how the conversation unfolds.
With how well you can tell the story of your work.
With how effectively you are able to hear and respond to the other person.
And with how you feel about yourself afterward.

You can tell when the light turns yellow
You can tell when the conversational light turns yellow. Here are a few of the signals:
* You sense a change in the mood.
* You see a shift in the expression or posture of the other person.
* You feel a physical contraction in your body.
* You notice yourself starting to speed up.
You can probably add to that list. Take note of your yellow light signals. Knowing what they are helps you notice them when they arise. And when you notice yellow lights, you can interpret and respond to them skillfully.

A yellow light tells you to slow down
When you see a yellow light, you can be sure something doesn’t feel quite right. For whatever reason, a sense of unease has crept into the conversation.
That doesn’t mean disaster is at hand. It could simply mean that the other person:
* Doesn’t understand.
* Has questions that they may not yet be able to articulate.
* Questions your thinking, assumptions, or motives.
* Disagrees with something.
* Is confused by something.
* Feels at a disadvantage in the conversation.
None of those are disasters. They are perfectly ordinary parts of a normal conversation. And the appropriate response is to slow down, check in, reconnect.

A yellow light doesn’t mean trouble
There’s a tendency in conversations with prospective clients to assume that a yellow light means trouble.
If you interpret a yellow light as trouble, you are at the mercy of the fight or flight reaction. You’ll either grind to a halt–getting out of the conversation as quickly as possible–or barrel through–stuffing your feelings and running roughshod past the signal to slow down.
Because that’s what a yellow light actually means: Slow down. Get ready to stop, if that’s what’s called for. Look around. Notice what’s going on. Slow down so you can respond to the shifting currents of the conversation.

What slowing down looks like
One reason people barrel through conversational yellow lights is that they don’t know what slowing down looks like. Or, because they are nervous, they forget.
The simplest all-purpose slowing down strategy is to ask a question. And the simplest question is: “What are you thinking?”
Ask that question with interested curiosity. Ask from don’t know mind. Then pause. Give the other person time to gather their thoughts.
Breathe. The more comfortable you can be, the easier it will be for the other person to respond.
It’s that simple.

It’s all about being conscious of the yellow light
If you’re unconscious of the yellow lights in conversations with prospective clients, you’ll grind to a halt or barrel through.
In either event you lose connection. Even though the conversation continues on the surface, it’s essentially over. The two of you are already busy looking for a way to end it gracefully.
But when you are conscious of the yellow light, you have a chance to stay connected. To ask the simple question that keeps the conversation alive and that can help you serve more just-right clients.