Play along for a second: “Let’s go to lunch —”

How do you finish that sentence? As in, how do you sell the idea of going to lunch with someone? Are you the type to say “Let’s go to lunch, it’ll be fun?” Or maybe “Let’s go to lunch, are you in?”

The second part of your invitation tells Paul Hatrak a lot about who you are. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking he’s zeroing in on your personality. Hatrak doesn’t believe in the word.

No, what Hatrak is zeroing in on is your behavioral style, the way you communicate. For him, the way people phrase what they say and the verbal and non-verbal ways they say things are the difference between someone who really understands how to communicate and someone who’s still working out the kinks.

Hatrak will present “Communicating for Success — Watch Your Language,” a free workshop at the St. Gregory the Great Networking Group on Saturday, May 16, at 8:30 a.m. at St. Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church in Hamilton Square. Visit www.stgregorythegreatchurch.org.

The very title of Hatrak’s talk is a lesson in tailoring the message. He has given his “Communicate for Success” presentation numerous times, but the second part of the title changes depending on the group he’s talking to. In this case, it’s to professionals in transition (as opposed to, say, government officials), so the message is more about how to hone interpersonal communication skills that will serve people well as they try to find new jobs or lines of work.

And Hatrak understands the life of a professional in transition. Before he started Focal Point Coaching, a business coaching firm based in Warren, Hatrak was a longtime accountant. He grew up seemingly born to be in business, helping family members run their flower business near his hometown of Exeter, Pennsylvania. Both parents were in the financial realm, his father a banker and his mother a bookkeeper.

In 1985 Hatrak earned his bachelor’s in accounting from King’s College and went to work for Deloitte & Touche and then Marquis & Associates. At 29 he became the owner of an insurance company that was bought by industry giant Willis. He worked for the firm until 2011, leaving as regional finance principal.

In 2012 he founded Hatrak Associates, helping professionals in transition to brand themselves on social media, when one of his clients told him “You have a gift for coaching.” The light bulb went off and Hatrak opened Focal Point later that same year. He now says he finally found where he was always meant to be, coaching businesspeople and professionals. “I’m living the dream,” he says.

Hold the elevator. Hatrak refers to himself as “the CPA who doesn’t talk about numbers.” He prefers to talk about ways he can help businesspeople improve their businesses. That’s one of the rules he follows when he talks to new people — put the word “help” in the conversation early. Another, related rule, is that he doesn’t want to be pitched, so he doesn’t pitch others. Instead of memorizing an elevator pitch (another term he hates), Hatrak introduces himself and then says “I help small businesses ..”

The difference between that and “Hi, my name is Paul Hatrak and I’m a business coach” is huge, he says. The former tells you he can help you; the latter, what he does for a living. In other words, the first offers the benefit to the person he’s talking to, the other offers little more than a retread of what’s on a business card. “I make it all about them,” Hatrak says.

About that lunch. Remember the lunch invitation we were talking about? Well, the reason Hatrak can tell a lot about people from the way they finish the sentence is because the pitch, for lack of a better word, belies what kind of person you’re dealing with. And Hatrak follows the DISC approach, a behavior assessment system that identifies whether a person is Dominant, Influential, Steady, or Compliant.

Unlike the Meyers-Briggs assessments, which look more at personality and emotion, DISC focuses on actual behaviors people have, Hatrak says. A dominant, for example, will likely say “I’m going to lunch, are you in?” They’re sharp, direct, clear, and no-nonsense. An influencer would say “it’ll be a blast.” A steady would say “We’ll sit by the fire.” And a compliant would “give you about four sentences,” Hatrak says.

Each behavior style has its own advantages — decisive, mood setting, educational, what have you. But knowing which style you are is only one part of the picture. To succeed in communication, it helps to know the style of everyone you talk to, and to be able to communicate with them on their terms. This ability to shape-shift in business, Hatrak says, is a major advantage, because it means you can communicate with everyone.

“I’m a chameleon,” he says. “I help other people become chameleons.”

Real help. Has anyone ever hit you up front with a deal to save you huge money on, say, yarn, but you don’t knit? This kind of thing happens a lot in business, particularly in the transition arena, like a networking meeting. One person tries to tell the other what benefits he can bring without paying the slightest mind to the fact that the person listening politely has no use for whatever is being pitched at her.

An easy solution to this situation, Hatrak says, is to just ask. “I don’t know if I can help you,” he says. “I need to ask you questions first.” The second part of asking? Being quiet and listening to what the other person tells you. And if there is a third part, it’s to acknowledge that you might not be a good fit. But maybe you could point the person to someone who actually could help.

A major fan of movies (which he uses to connect with people), Hatrak says this idea comes down to a line from “Pulp Fiction,” when Mia asks Vincent, “Do you listen or wait to talk?”

Most people wait to talk. But think, Hatrak says, how much more you get to know, if you actually listen.

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