According to experts, we are bombarded with thirty-five thousand messages a day. Everywhere we go, everywhere we look, someone is trying to get our attention. Every politician, advertiser, journalist, family member, and acquaintance has something to say to us. Every day we are faced with e-mails, text messages, billboards, television, movies, radio, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. Add to these newspapers, magazines, and books. Our world is cluttered with words. How do we choose which messages to tune in and which ones to tune out?
At the same time, we also have messages we want to get across to others. I’ve read that, on average, most people speak about sixteen thousand words a day. If you transcribed those words, they’d fill a three-hundred-page book every week. At the end of a year, you would have an entire bookcase full of words. In a lifetime, you’d fill a library. But how many of your words would matter? How many would make a difference? How many would get through to others?
The above excerpt is from leadership expert John C. Maxwell’s book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What The Most Effective People Do Differently, in which he explains that connecting with others is the key to success. In addition, he lays out some ground rules for powerful communication that ensures you connect with those around you.
Why is connecting so important? As Maxwell points out, we spend so much of our days communicating with other people. If we simply talk, write, and type all day, but no one truly hears what we are saying, then that’s a whole lotta wasted words! So, what are some of the skills we can learn in order to communicate and connect?
Connecting Is Hard Work
It’s easy to communicate with people, but harder to connect. Maxwell explains that there are four communication “sins:” Being unprepared, uncommitted, uninteresting, or uncomfortable. These four problems all indicate a lack of effort on your part. Instead, be prepared to engage in a conversation, learn about the person you are speaking to. Make him or her feel comfortable by appearing confident yourself, but also by being able to laugh at your own mistakes. Show interest in what other people have to say and enthusiasm within the conversation. Convey respect through your words and actions.
If you enter a conversation, whether it is one-on-one, in a group, or in front of an audience and you are unprepared, uncommitted, uninteresting, or uncomfortable, most people will pick up on this right away. Then, no matter what words of wisdom or kindness you say, the people you are speaking to will have already dismissed you. Therefore, put in the effort before the communication to ensure that when you do communicate, you will connect with those around you.
Maxwell writes, “If I had to pick a first rule of communication – the practice above all others that opens the door to connection with others – it would be to look for common ground. That rule applies whether you’re resolving conflict with your spouse, teaching a child, negotiating a deal, selling a product, writing a book, leading a meeting, or communicating to an audience. It’s difficult to find common ground with others when the only person you’re focused on is yourself!”
We all know that people connect with others when they feel that they share something: a philosophy, routine, or practice. Listen to what those around you are saying. If you pay attention and ask good questions, you will understand where others are coming from and then be able to let them know how you think and feel. As Maxwell writes, “Connection always requires both parties to engage and be open.”
Don’t make assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling. Don’t exhibit arrogance through the belief that you are more important than the other person. And don’t worry about losing control by looking weak because you are actually paying attention to what other people are saying or feeling.
The truth is, if people like you, they will listen to you. Likewise, if they know that you care about them and share their experiences, they will listen as well. This is something I teach in all of my social skills courses. When children develop the art of listening, they are able to not only do better in their schoolwork, but connect with their classmates as well.
Many of the tips in Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently are ones that we intuitively know, but don’t always understand how they connect to other areas of our lives. The final note that the author leaves us with is the connectors must “live what they communicate.” In other words, connectors must practice what they preach if they hope for their message to be heard and connected with. Therefore, if you would like to connect with others, ensure that in addition to being prepared, committed, interesting, comfortable, and finding common ground, be sure to deliver results before you deliver your message. If we want people to listen to us, we must first follow through ourselves.
One of the main things to remember is that connecting is a skill that you can learn. It is not imprinted in your DNA, rather you can cultivate and grow your ability to connect. And, when you do, you’ll make sure that your every word counts!
Register now for a Social Thinking workshop by Michelle Garcia Winner on November 16. Please call Mrs. Schonfeld at 718-382-5437 for more information.Rifka Schonfeld