I’ve been told that I’m a great communicator. This statement isn’t to brag, but it’s something that is spoken over me from friends, co-workers, and former employers. I just have a strong self-image, so I’m not one to turn down compliments.
But what I’ve been finding is that effective communication can only get you so far. There is a lot of focus on effectively communicating with people, but not much on the connection piece. When you can truly connect with people, you’re setting yourself up for success. In his book, Everyone Communicates Few Connect John C. Maxwell defines connection as “the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.”
In other words, when we “connect” with others, we are really finding ways to add value to their lives. That person should see that their life is going to be better with you in it!
By no means am I going to go over the book in its entirety, but I do want to highlight a few key points that have really helped me in building and retaining my relationships with people.
To add value to others, one must value others
“I was so focused on my own agenda that I often overlooked and ignored many people”.
I can’t speak for everyone, but this is truly a mindset that I had to overcome in order to better connect with people. It is so easy to get wrapped up in what you want, focus on what’s going to help you, only doing things that will benefit you. It is this behavior that gives the term ‘networking’ a negative connotation. When we get wrapped up in our agenda we just become those people at networking events who want to fling our business cards at people like chakrams. When we act this way, we tend to overlook anyone who doesn’t seem “important” or “high on the food chain”. Not only that, but connection should always have a mutual benefit. Do you have a friend who acts that way towards you? They seem to always want something from you whether it be a referral, money, a ride, or maybe even your own connections and resources. But then as soon you need something, even the smallest thing, that person is no where to be found or they seem to always have an excuse as to why they can’t be of help to you. Chances are you won’t be friends with that person for long because they don’t value you. They might value what you have and how it benefits them, but that connection with you is absent.
When you can learn to care about other people, you can connect with them. Rather than just chatting up a person until you can get what you want, learn how you can understand who they are and what they want. A good connection is what keeps a customer satisfied and coming back. A good connection is what allows a professional reference from your job from years ago to remain effective. People can feel when an interaction is genuine so develop an outward mindset when connecting with someone. Maxwell offers these questions; think about these questions when you’re interacting with people, it could be a networking event or it could be a casual social gathering:
- Who are they?
- What do they care about?
- Where do they come from?
- Why are they here?
- What do I have that I can offer them?
- How do they want to feel when we conclude?
The Importance of Authenticity
Something else I had to learn is that connection is a two-way street. That may sound obvious, but it’s surprising to see the amount of people who hide behind masks when they interact with people. Genuineness isn’t easy to find, so it’s always a breath of fresh air when we meet someone who is true to who they are and willing to be open about both their strengths and their weaknesses. A principle that Maxwell highlights in his text is the idea of creating common ground with people. “You can’t take someone to higher ground if you don’t first meet them at common ground!” But you can’t expect to build common ground if you don’t let anyone know who you are or what you believe. This was especially a big hurdle for me. I didn’t like the idea of letting myself be vulnerable with others. The very idea of it made me super uncomfortable. I could find out everything I wanted about you, but you were only going to get maybe 1/2 of anything about me. This is a very selfish mindset. If I’m not willing to be open and honest with people, to be vulnerable and make myself known, then why should I expect someone else to do the same?
People Need to Feel Your Passion!
I wouldn’t describe myself as an excitable person by any means, but I’ve grown to understand that when you don’t display passion or excitement for what you’re presenting, you can’t expect others to do that either! Maxwell invites us to ask ourselves: Do I believe what I say? Has it changed me? Do I believe what I have will help others? Have I seen it change others?
If we think about this, how can we not be excited about what we’re talking about?! People will mirror your emotions and body language; get passionate about what you have to share with people and expect that they will reflect the same enthusiasm.
I’m a little bias as this is my favorite People-Skill book thus far, but I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to improve their communication and connection skills. These were just a few nuggets that I found especially valuable, but the book in its entirety has been a major help to my self-improvement. Happy reading!