Are you transactional or relational in your dealings with others?
I once came across a certain vitamin/mineral supplement; I’ll call it M-200. I sent the company an email saying, “I am considering becoming a customer of M-200 and have a quick question. Does it contain caffeine, and if so, how much per dose?” Just a few hours later I received a reply. Here it is in its entirety, word for word: “No caffeine.” Not a greeting, sign off, or automated signature. Just those two words. That’s an example of a transactional communication. It provided an answer and nothing else.
Here is how the response could have been written from the relational approach: “Thank you for your interest in M-200. The product contains no caffeine at all. We hope you’ll join the thousands of satisfied customers who have found the positive benefits of M-200 in their lives. Please reach out if you have any more questions. Sincerely, Sally Jones.”
Which method is better, transactional or relational? It depends. But knowing these two styles exist and understanding when, how, and why to use each of them is a great life skill.
It’s perfectly OK to be transactional in certain cases. Task-oriented emails among co-workers are one example. Transactional communication also works when something is urgent. It’s best not to be wordy as you’re trying to get people to exit a burning building.
Even in business, a slight amount of relational communication is usually better than the purely transactional. Of course, there’s a time and place for everything. A casual touchpoint is different from catching a client on her cell phone while she’s walking through an airport.
In more personal circumstances relational is almost always preferable, as long as it’s done properly. One common mistake is when people talk exclusively about themselves. Others don’t want to hear only about my life, my car, my spouse, my kids, my pets, my weekend, etc. They want to talk about THEMselves. Giving equal time or more is recommended. Ask questions, really listen, and respond reflectively. You’ll become everyone’s favorite confidante.
So, are you transactional or relational in your dealings with others? Learning when to lean toward one or the other is important. And when people get it right, they might even make a friend or sell more M-200.