Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Beyond Words (3)

In this third chapter of his book “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect”, John Maxwell discusses the various components that go into connecting with others.

In the first part of his chapter, which I covered in the last past, he stated that words, whether written or spoken, only represent a part of what is communicated, and a small part at that.   It turns out that the visual and non-verbal (gestural) components not only represent the other parts of what is communicated, but they represent the MAJOR parts of communication.   These three parts of non-verbal communication connect with people through thought, emotion, and a call to action.

In the second section, John Maxwell presents his Connection Checklist, which I relate to the three categories of thought, emotion and action-related communication styles presented in the previous section.    There is a fourth category of communication style which John Maxwell does not mention, and that is the process-related style.

INTEGRITY–Did I do my best?

EXPECTATION–Did I please my sponsor or my audience?

RELEVANCE–Did I understand and relate to the audience?

VALUE–Did I add value to the people?

APPLICATION–Did I give people a game plan?

CHANGE–Did I make a difference?

In the following third section of the chapter, John Maxwell gives tips on how to increase your ability to connect with people

1.  Eliminate Personal Distractions

For starters, be well groomed and wear the right clothing for the occasion.    Make sure you eliminate behaviors that may be distracting to the audience.   Since you may be unaware that you are doing these things, the best way to uncover these “visual tics” is to record yourself on video.

2.  Expand Your Range of Expression

Facial expressions should become more exaggerated when you are trying to emphasize points, particularly if the audience you are speaking to is larger.   And remember to small.

3.  Move with a Sense of Purpose

Move quickly and confidently onto the stage, because that conveys the impression that you are energetic and are looking forward to talking with the audience.   Move around the stage, but don’t do it randomly–move when you have a change in topic so that the movement adds to the meaning of what you are saying, and doesn’t detract from it.

4.  Maintain an Open Posture

Step out from behind the lectern, and get out towards where the people are.    Decreasing the physical distance between you and the audience will help decrease the emotional distance.

5.  Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

Make sure you check out your speaking area (the space between you and the audience), the lighting, and the sound system before you get on stage.   You need to eliminate any surprises BEFORE you get up on stage, so that you are comfortable as if you were speaking to the audience from your own living room.

Let me reiterate the point that John Maxwell made about recording yourself on video.   If you don’t have that luxury, then have people evaluate your speech and ask them if there are any gestures you make that you may be unaware of that they think could be distracting.

For example, when I started speaking at Toastmasters, I would move my hands around in a style that was energetic, but almost to the point of being frenetic.    I didn’t even know I was doing it!    I thought to myself, I need to control this.   I reasoned that what was happening was that I was nervous, but rather than channeling that nervousness through my voice, that nervous energy was being channeled into the motion of my hands.    The problem was that this energy was not very well controlled because I was not even consciously aware of it.

So I made it a point to keep my hands ABSOLUTELY STILL during the next few speeches.   Now people said, “your content is fine, but you’re a little stiff. ”   At first, I was frankly a little taken aback.   “Make up your mind, first you said I was moving my hands too much, and now you say I’m moving them too little!”    But again, upon reflection, I realized that I was now aware of the hand movement, so that much is good.    It’s better than NOT being aware of it.  And I was making a conscious effort to control it.   Again, that represented some progress.  However, I was controlling the hand gestures to the point where again it seemed unnatural to the audience, but from the other direction.

Here’s how I struck a balance.   You know how in plays there are stage directions in parentheses like this:  (he walks towards the left side of the stage).    When I wrote my speeches, I first wrote them out word for word.   Then I would go back and visualize myself doing the speech or sometimes I would actually perform it.   If there was a point that needed a gesture that emphasized the meaning of a particular word, phrase, or a transition in the story, I would write it down as a stage direction in the script.    Then I would perform it over and over again the same way until it looked like it was happening naturally.

Then I would make sure that the gestures I made were confined to those that I had scripted.   And the audience, in other words, those fellow Toastmasters clubs members, now said my hand gestures looked natural.   They in reality weren’t natural, they were scripted, but they looked natural, and that’s all that mattered.

The next post will deal with connecting intellectually.                    



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