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12 Dec 2013

Techniques Leveraging Relationships in Communications

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Leveraging Relationships in Communications

Leveraging Relationships Icon

How do we turn relationships into action?

Personalization and personification are very effective change techniques. Yet, business conversations are often neutered and impersonal striving for objectivity and rationality. Personalization and personification allow us to leverage relationships more effectively to secure business objectives. Without them, leveraging is purely transactional and compliant.

Personalization involves individualizing communications and personification associating people with something extraneous, usually inanimate:


  • Natasha, I will need your help.
  • How should I word this to reflect your style?
  • How do we structure this project to fit your talents?


  • Natasha’s point is on target.
  • Your question is a good one.
  • I want to run with your idea.

Imagine buying a sweater and monogramming it. The sweater is now personalized to you. When we address someone by name, we are essentially monogramming our comment with our listener’s name. Whenever we suggest adapting something specific to a person’s qualities, this is personalization. As a contrasting example, adapting things to someone’s schedule is customization but not personalizing because a schedule is not an inherent quality. This makes personalization similar to intrinsic compliments.

Consider people who name their cars or refer to them with “he” or “she.” They are giving human qualities to cars, personifying them. Celebrities do the same in commercials. They are subtly putting their faces and infusing their personalities onto products. In the above examples, we are giving faces to the point, the question and the idea. The point isn’t just any point. It’s Natasha’s point. She is the face for it just as celebrities are for products. Personification can also serve a practical function: I don’t have to reiterate the point; I can reference it simply as “Natasha’s point.”

In business, we often tout relationships’ importance. Personalization and personification help us leverage them by emotionally integrating people to business objectives. In effect, they make business personal.


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