Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Focusing on Others (4)

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.


Chapter 2–Connecting Is All About Others

The first chapter was an introduction to the importance of connecting rather than just communicating.   The second chapter starts getting into the principles behind connecting with others.

The last post dealt with John Maxwell’s decision in his early career to get better at communicating.   He got a clue from Zig Ziglar at a Success Seminar John Maxwell attended in Dayton, Ohio:   he realized he was trying to get ahead by correcting others when he should have been trying to connect with others.    He also discussed the elements that keep a person from connecting, namely a) immaturity, b) ego, c) failure to value everyone, and d) insecurity.

In the last post, John Maxwell shows the three questions that people always ask themselves when interacting with others:  a) Do you care for me?, b) Can you help me?, and c) Can I trust you?   If you can answer those questions, you will succeed in connecting with those people.

This last post deals with the concluding portion of the chapter:   empathy is the key!

1.  Cuban Missile Crisis

This example is not from John Maxwell’s book, but is rather taken from an historical incident that could have ended in nuclear war, namely, the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.    Photographs taken by a U.S. spy plane overflying Cuba revealed the construction of what were identified by the CIA as missile launchers, presumably ones that were designed to deliver nuclear warheads to targets in the U.S.    However, the nuclear warheads themselves were not seen in the photographs, so the assumption was that they would delivered from the Soviet Union in the not-too-distant future.    When President Kennedy was alerted of this situation, he called together the intelligence agencies, the State Department, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and asked for options on how to deal with the crisis.   The State Department recommended using diplomacy to try to get the Soviets to agree to remove the missiles.    The intelligence agencies opted for the deployment of a naval blockade which would, at least temporarily, prevent the warheads from reaching the island of Cuba.   The Joint Chiefs of Staff, headed by Gen. Curtis LeMay, recommended air strikes against the missile sites followed by a full-scale invasion of Cuba.   Their thinking was that, since the Soviets and Cubans did not yet have nuclear capability, we would have the tactical advantage if we invaded immediately.   If we waited until the warheads reached the island, we would not only have that advantage and it would impossible to force the Soviets to remove the missiles.   An attempt was made to get the Soviets to respond to a message through diplomatic channels, namely, the Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, but was unsuccessful.   President Kennedy ordered the blockade to commence, and ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare for a full-scale invasion of Cuba.   Nikita Khrushchev said that the Soviet Union would defy the blockade, and so the two superpowers were headed towards a confrontation that might have catastrophic results.

Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent a message by telegram to the State Department on Friday, October 26th, stating that they the two superpowers were like people pulling on the ends of a rope in which knots were tied, and he suggested that they work together to untie the knot rather than encouraging those whose only solution was to try to pull harder.   The message was brought  by the former ambassador to the Soviet Union Tommy Thompson, a State Department official who was fluent in Russian and who had known the Premier when he had lived in Russia as an ambassador.    Just as he was reading the message to President Kennedy, a new message came in that was more threatening than conciliatory, threatening “annihilation” if the US tried to invade the island; this message was apparently written by hardliners in the Kremlin, the equivalent to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US.   Tommy Thompson urged the President to answer the first message.    He empathized with Khrushchev, saying that he had put the missiles in Cuba because Kennedy had put nuclear missiles in Turkey that were aimed at the Soviet Union.   He was trying to counter that threat, and now the situation had obviously gotten out of control.    He wanted a solution to the crisis that would allow him as a politician to say to the Cuban people that he had saved them from an invasion of the island by the US, and to say to the Soviet Union that he had neutralized the nuclear threat that the Kennedy administration was putting them under.    Kennedy listened to Thompson’s message, because he recognized that, although Khrushchev was ostensibly on the opposite side of the crisis, he was in a similar position vis-a-vis the military, meaning that he also was trying to resolve the situation politically rather than militarily.   So he answered Khrushchev and they made a deal that, if Khrushchev would remove the missiles from Cuba, Kennedy would agree within six months to get the missiles out of Turkey.

The crisis was solved because someone had the training, experience, and the courage to tell Kennedy exactly how his adversary was thinking.    This allowed Kennedy the space to see what he and his adversary had in common rather than what their differences were, and this was what made the difference.   Kennedy was criticized by Gen. Curtis LeMay for not having gone ahead with the invasion.    However, events in 1992 proved him wrong, because at a conference held to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the crisis, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara learned that the CIA analysis had been wrong.    The Kremlin’s archives were opened, and their records showed that in fact there already were nuclear warheads on the island at the time of crisis, but the CIA had somehow missed seeing them in photographs.    Their assumption that the warheads hadn’t been delivered yet was false.    This meant that the strategy of the blockade was useless, because the warheads were already there.   But more importantly, if the green light had been given for the invasion, the Soviets would have had the tactical advantage, not the US, and the situation would definitely have escalated into nuclear war.    So empathy with your adversary is important.

2.  Empathy is Key

Now the audience is not your adversary, or at least they should not be.    You and your audience are not in conflict, or again, you should not be.   The best way for you and your audience to connect is for you to imagine what it is that they would like to get out of your presentation.   There are some that would like a memorable story that they can relate to their own experience.   There are some that would like a “takeaway” in terms of some action items that they can do to improve their lives, given the information you are about to present.   There are some that need to see the ideas connect to each other logically so they can see the entire structure of your argument at once.    You need to be able to deliver to all of them.

And that is where the next chapter takes us:   going beyond words to deliver a message that engages their eyes, their minds, they ears, and their emotions.   I will be covering that chapter in next week’s posts.


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