Last month I had the opportunity to attend (and present) the first Business Relationship Management (BRM) conference in Portland sponsored by the Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI). Many exciting discussions took place between the delegates and presenters. One of those conversations was around the language used by the BRM. The question was asked: \u201cHow should I be speaking to my business stakeholders so they will consider me an equal and not just a support resource?\u201d\nThe BRM Body of Knowledge (BRMBoK) defines five business relationship maturity levels, however, only the two lower levels and the final level are relevant to this language discussion. Level 1 is classified as 'ad-hoc' and at this level there is little or no real relationship between the BRM and the stakeholder (in this example, the business is the stakeholder). BRMs at Level 2 are classified as 'order-takers' and at this level, the stakeholder will typically engage the BRM only when they need something. Otherwise they want the BRM to stay out of the way. Level 5 (the highest level) is classified at the 'strategic partner' and at this level, the BRM and the stakeholder share common goals for maximizing value, share risks, as well as rewards.\nThe challenge is that many BRMs don\u2019t know how to speak using the language of strategic partners. Instead, either they have little or no interaction. And if they do, the interaction language is not conducive\u00a0 to a strategic level relationship.\nAs we already discussed, BRMs at the lower levels are classified as ad-hoc or order takers. This could be considered to be a more subservient and passive relationship. Typical words and phrases used at this level include:\n\u201cWhat can I do for you?\u201d\n\u201cCustomer\u201d\n\u201cYes, Sir!\u201d\n\u201cClient\u201d\n\u201cService Provider\u201d\n\u201cLet me check\u201d\n\u201cI need this now\u201d\n\u201cWhen do you need this?\u201d\n\u201cI\u2019m sorry.\u201d\nAs you can see, these words and phrases do not resonate with someone who wants to be a strategic partner but more with someone taking orders.\nThe language of use by BRM at level 5 on the other hand is quite different. It is more of an equal-level partnership. Here are some words and phrases used at the strategic partner level:\n\u201cThis may be of interest to you\u2026\u201d\n\u201cWhat do you think?\u201d\n\u201cPartner\u201d\n\u201cBusiness enabling capabilities\u201d\n\u201cWhat does success look like?\u201d\n\u201cHow much business value are we delivering?\u201d\n\u201cWhat is the 3-year business strategy for our LOB?\u201d\n\u201cWhat are the key performance drivers for our LOB?\u201d\n\u201cLong-term plan\u201d\n\u201cWhat is the window of opportunity\u201d\n\u201cBig Picture\u201d\nNotice the differences not only in language but also in the tone and meaning of the words used. If a BRM wishes to become more of a strategic partners with their stakeholders they need to move away from thinking of the relationship as \u201cme\u201d and \u201cthem\u201d to more as \u201cus.\u201d It is not \u201ctheir\u201d business; it is \u201cour\u201d business. It is not \u201cwhat can I do for you\u201d but more \u201cwhat can we to together\u201d to achieve our mutual goals.\nThe industry talks about how the business and IT need to work together to achieve common organizational goals. Like we discussed in other articles, the term is \u201cIT convergence.\u201d If we truly want to achieve such convergence we need to not only be \u201cwalking the walk\u201d but in fact we should begin by \u201ctalking the talk.\u201d Our language needs to match the relationship we wish to have first to set the tone for the relationship.