Communicating but not Connecting

Some of us have experienced dozing off through an overloaded presentation. Others experienced the dread of a manager who keeps talking without an engaged audience during a team meeting. On the other hand, some of us also experienced being inspired by a powerful TED talk or feeling seen or heard by a boss who just gets it.

What makes the difference?

Thanks to John Maxwell. His book “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” points out the blind spot of many leaders and presenters: they communicate information without ever connecting to their recipients.

Connecting is “the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.” Humans have an innate desire to connect. But if we place our entire focus on the content we try to communicate, we fail to meet that desire in our message recipients.

So what are some ways to make sure we are connecting as we communicate? Maxwell proposed a few practices:

  1. Connect on common ground
    What are some values in your message that are important to your recipients? Avoid assumptions, arrogance, and indifference. I have a client who has a hard time understanding why his team members don’t follow along when he presents his vision for the team. He assumes they know what he knows. Unfortunately, not everyone is a visionary. How can he use analogies, imageries, or vocabularies to align his vision to values that are important to his team members?
  2. Keeping it simple
    Are we complicating our message to prove our expertise? Being simple takes more hard work than we think. It comes down to getting to the point, saying it clearly (even if repetition is necessary), and eliminating possible misinterpretation. This is especially challenging for cross-cultural communication where the same words often reflect different cultural values. Often, keeping it simple would mean taking a lengthy process to craft our message as we try to remain sensitive to the various parameters of our recipients.
  3. Create an experience where everyone enjoys
    A huge part of communication is an emotional process. It’s not the listener’s responsibility to “get” what we deliver. This responsibility falls on the speaker. So, capture the recipient’s attention from the start by being creative and engaging. It is amazing the clarity it brings when we put ourselves in the recipient’s shoes: we immediately know what and how we want that message to be delivered. Note that different people have different learning styles — audio, visual, kinetics… take advantage of the different learning styles to increase the impact of your message.

These points look simple. But all of them have a common thread: connecting is very much an other-focus activity. It requires the communicator to think through ways to make her message receptive and meaningful to the recipients. Start with these small steps to increase your impact in your communication.

Published by

Karen Tan

Experienced leadership and intercultural coach with a demonstrated history of empowering global leaders in both corporate and non-profit sectors. Skilled in leadership development, intercultural communication, cross-cultural living and adjustments, and transitions.

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