I left home at 19. I had a great education, ability to think critically, reasoning skills, proactive attitude, and willingness to work hard. What I didn’t have was the critical ability to connect with other people and communicate effectively. I never considered myself to be an introvert, although most people would have. I simply didn’t talk to people. Ask me a question, and you would get a monosyllabic response that discouraged any further dialogue. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk or communicate with people, I simply didn’t know how.
Enter my first job waiting tables. I quickly learned the hard way that the ability to connect with other people and communicate effectively was a critical success skill in life. It took several years, but I did improve my communication skills—and my ability to connect with other people.
Regardless of your preferred personality style—or whether you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert—dealing with other people is a fact of life. Almost any situation you can think of requires you to come in contact and interact with others. On the professional side, the ability to communicate and relate to customers, co-workers, employees, or a boss can determine your career potential and define your success. On the personal side, communication with your spouse, children, parents, and friends will determine your satisfaction in life (at least some of it) and define your relationships.
Connection Comes FirstCommunications of every kind bombard us. Billboards, radio ads, Facebook News Feed, people talking, co-workers complaining, children fussing, phones ringing, TVs blaring, and on and on. I read that on average, we are exposed to 35,000 messages of some type each day. That’s an incredible amount of communication, so it’s little wonder our brain tries to filter out the “noise” in an effort to focus on what’s really important.
Your brain works much like the spam filter on your email—by automatically sliding some messages to the side in order to deal with the ones that don’t appear to be junk. That works very well until we realize that sometimes we are part of the “noise” other people are tuning out. Each of us wants to communicate. We want someone to hear and acknowledge our communications, because they are important to us. However, a huge challenge is to communicate in such a way that your message doesn’t become just another piece of the clutter.
This means that if we want to communicate with others, we must be sure we are connecting with others. If we are connected, communication will be much easier and more effective. If we are disconnected, it doesn’t matter what we are communicating because the message isn’t getting through.
Connection Multiples CommunicationEmotional connections can be formed in an instant, or they may take time to establish. Regardless of how quickly connections are formed, when they are established, communication becomes almost effortless.
Think of a connection as a multiplier for your communication skills. If your communication skills are a level 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, but your connection skills are at level 2, your effectiveness as a communicator will never be higher than a 16 out of 100. However, if your communication skills are a level 6, but your connection skills are a level 8, your effectiveness as a communicator will be 48 out of 100.
Bottom line: If you improve your connection skills, your effectiveness as a communicator will improve tremendously.
Connection Leverages InfluenceConnecting is about the other person and it leverages the influence you have with that person. When it comes to making a connection and building influence, be the first person to reach out. When you speak up first, you will form an instant connection because you make the other person feel valued. It’s incredible how you can connect with someone when you don’t mind taking the initiative.
Give it a try. At the grocery store, greet the cashier before they greet you. At the restaurant, ask the servers name immediately. If someone sits next to you at church, introduce yourself if you don’t know them. If you are in the elevator, smile and greet the person who gets in with you. If you are at a social event and someone you don’t know walks up to join the conversation, introduce yourself and welcome them.
The point: Don’t be afraid to be the first to speak, smile, and form an instant connection. Building a connection by reaching out first will automatically increase your influence with that person. It’s not about you. You must leave your ego at the door and be willing to focus on the other person. That requires a certain level of humility in being willing to meet them on their level. It also means you are choosing to listen first or trying to understand first. If you truly care about them, it will be easy to show that you care. And when you do, your influence will increase exponentially.