Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Principles (1)


I joined a Mastermind group which is taking the book by the leadership guru John C. Maxwell called “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” and going through the book one chapter a week.    The first part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Principles, and the second part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Practices.

I am going to cover each chapter with one blog post, taking notes based on my reading of the chapter.    Rather than simply a summary of each chapter, I hope these notes will provide my own interpretation of the material, especially regarding the ways it applies to the various facets of my life where I am applying leadership (in church, in Toastmasters, as a project manager).    I hope to relate my experiences learning foreign languages and working in foreign countries to the subject of communication.

PART I:   CONNECTING PRINCIPLES

Chapter 1–Connecting Increases Your Influence in Every Situation

1.  Connecting Can Make You or Break You; Connecting Is Key

The first two sections of this chapter emphasize the importance of connecting.   Let me illustrate with a saying of Oscar Wilde’s that may first seem a bit perplexing:  All bad art is sincere.   If for the purposes of our discussion we replace the word art with the word communication, since art is a form of communication, you get the saying:   All bad communication is sincere.

Well, what’s wrong with being sincere, you might ask?   You’re not suggesting I be insincere, are you?   No, not at all.   However, being sincere, which you can define as “having a connection between what is in your heart and what comes out of your mouth as words”, is not enough.   It will get the words out of your mouth, but if you are not able to connect with the other person in such a way that they hear and understand those words in the same way that you meant them, then that communication is bad.    Being sincere is a condition which can be called “necessary but not sufficient.”    This book will teach you how to produce words which connect what is in your heart (the “sincere” part of the message) with the heart of your listener.

2.  Connecting is Crucial For Leaders

Presidential historian Robert Dallek said that successful presidents exhibit five qualities that enable them to achieve things that others don’t:

  • Vision–the ability to describe where they are going
  • Consensus building–the ability to persuade people to come along with them
  • Charisma–the ability to connect on a personal level
  • Trustworthiness–the ability to do what they say they will do
  • Pragmatism–the ability to see a problem clearly to reach a solution

Of all these five qualities, the first four clearly are related to communication skills, and even the last one (pragmatism) could be said to rely on communication skills to a certain extent.   And those communication skills rely on the ability to … connect!    One of my favorite examples of this comes from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals about the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.    In running for the presidency in 1860, the other candidates tried to show how through the selection of vocabulary and literary illusions how educated they were.    Abraham Lincoln used stories with everyday images that the average uneducated person would even be able to relate to.   He connected, and thereby eventually became the Republican candidate for the Presidency, although the others all had superior educations, at least on paper (Abraham Lincoln was mostly self-taught).

3.  Connecting Helps in Every Area of Life

Besides helping leaders, connecting helps teachers and trainers, and I would add given my experience in Toastmasters that it certainly helps those giving speeches.   After I completed by “basic training” in Toastmasters by having earned the Competent Communicator award, I started going into some more advanced training by going through two separate advanced manuals, one called “The Entertaining Speaker” and the other one called “Speaking to Inform.”   The entertaining speeches I would do in my home club (Yorba Linda Toastmasters Club), and the informative speeches I would do in my project management club (OC Project Masters Club).    One meeting, the OC Project Masters Club had someone drop out at the last minute, leaving a speech slot that suddenly opened up.   I had an entertaining speech ready for my other club, but I volunteered to give it at the OC Project Masters Club instead so that the opportunity wouldn’t go to waste.

After the speech, one of the founders of the club who was a Distinguished Toastmaster or DTM, the highest level of individual achievement within Toastmasters, came up to me and said, “That was a very good speech, better than the ones you’ve given in this club before.”   I told him it was because I was doing the entertaining speech manual, not the informative speech manual.   He said, “you are laboring under the delusion that there are two kinds of speeches, those that are entertaining and those that are informative.    They can be BOTH at the same time!”    That was a revelation to me.   Thinking back on what I had been doing, I realized that with the entertaining speech, if I got a line that was designed for laughter, and the audience laughed, I would pause and wait for the laughter to die down before I went on to my next point.    In the informative speech, however, I never waited to see if the information I had just stated had sunk in or not.   People were expecting a nice, refreshing drink from a garden hose, and here I was mercilessly spraying them with a fire hose, not noticing that they were (metaphorically speaking) grasping on their chairs for dear life to prevent from being swept up and hitting the back of the room.    I needed to connect with them the same way I connected with my “entertaining speech” audience!

4.  The Desire to Connect

I have been an introvert by nature pretty much all of my life, but that just means it is more difficult to connect to others than it would be for an extrovert, who rather than requiring energy to do so, gains energy by the exercise.   However, introvert or extrovert, the desire to connect with others is still there.    For introverts, I would say that you may have to put more effort into learning how to connect with others, but I think in a subtle way, it is more rewarding when you do so precisely because it is more difficult.

When I was in junior high school and felt awkward making the transition from elementary school to the new social universe I was presented with at this next level in my educational career, I developed a sense of humor to get other kids to like me.    One of the best kinds of humor, I found, was humor where I laughed at myself.    I remember one time when coming back to my seat after giving a presentation in front of the class in English, that I tripped over a book left in the aisle right in front of my desk.    I looked down and said, “who’s the idiot who left that there for me to trip over?  Oh, wait, that’s MY book.”    The person sitting behind me thought that was hilarious, and he ended up repeating it to the person next to him, and so on, and suddenly the teacher was looking suspiciously in the general direction of my desk, wondering where all the commotion was coming from.    She said, “what’s going on?”   Realizing that I had struck comic gold, I feigned innocence by saying, “I’m sorry, I tripped over a book that some idiot left on the floor.”    That just added fuel to the fire, and my comment spread throughout the lunchroom later on that day.   Now, I’m sure the English teacher was not appreciate of my efforts to ingratiate myself amongst my classmates, but being willing to laugh at myself made it easier to connect with others.   Why?  Because by stating your own imperfections or mistakes, you often make it easier for people to relate to you because they have either done some similar or have been afraid of doing something similar.

The next post will deal with the way John Maxwell developed his own set of communication skills–by a series of keen observations on his deficiencies in that area when he was a younger and more inexperienced communicator…

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