Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Requires Initiative

This fourth chapter of the book “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” by John Maxwell covers the fourth principle of connection, namely, “Connecting Always Requires Energy.”    John Maxwell explains that interaction with others is not the same as connection.    You can interact with others in a way that is totally self-centered which does not connect with others; you need to keep your focus on your audience in order to connect with them.

In the last post, John Maxwell talked about the four unpardonable sins of a communicator, being

  • Unprepared
  • Uncommitted
  • Uninteresting
  • Uncomfortable

He also relayed 10 tips on how to successfully connect with people from communication coach Susan RoAne, author of the book How to Work a Room.     In this next series of five sections from this chapter, John Maxwell discusses five proactive ways to use energy for connecting.    Proactive means not reacting to, but doing something first which then elicits a reaction from the audience.

The first of these five proactive ways of using energy for connecting is … Connecting Requires Initiative … So Go First!

1.  Engage the Audience

Rather than just getting up in front of an audience and greeting them with something bland like, “it is a pleasure (or honor) to speak in front of you today”, or by stating the purpose of your speech, and seeing whether the audience warms to or not, why not try an opening to speech which engages them right from the start?   Here are some examples from Patricia Fripp, an award-winning speech coach …

  • I wish you could have been there … (transports the audience into a different time and place)
  • I’ll never forget the first time … (lets the audience know that you used to be in the place they are now)
  • Have you ever … (relates the experience of the speaker with the experiences of the audience)

For more instructive and instructional videos on improving your public speaking ability, you can go to her website at http://www.fripp.com.

2.  In a Small Group

If you are not talking to a large audience, but to a small group or team, then you need to offer help to others.   You can initiate conversation, but then DO NOT take it over … let the other person speak, and follow their interests and comments.   Too many times I have listened to a radio interview where the person being interviewed answers a question, and then the interviewer says “great” in a lackluster tone, and then goes onto the next question.   It is clear that the interviewer did not really process the information given, because they are not reacting to it with a follow-up question or a statement that relates it to their own experience.   They are just saying “great” or whatever as a filler word, before they go on to the next line in their script, which just happens to be the next question.

Have you had the experience where a person is obviously waiting for you to finish your statement, and then pounces on it like a jaguar going in for the kill to a helpless gazelle?    During the time they are talking, they are rehearsing what they are going to say, rather than listening to what you are really saying.    The problem is, their comment may be reacting you said before, but you may have changed the topic, so their response is disconnecting with what you are talking about right now.

My brother studied acting in college and I asked him how actors keep saying the same lines of a play over and over without getting bored.    He says it takes the skill of active listening so that, although they know their next line, rather than rehearsing it in their head, they allow themselves to listen to the words, and observe the facial movements and hand gestures of the other person so that they react to them as if they are hearing or seeing them for the first time.  Then their reaction to the line is a natural reaction based, naturally, on the words they have to say next in the play, but they are fueled by the emotional reaction to those lines which occurs when they are present in the moment of the play.

Ideally we should listen to each other in that way as well.    However, although you follow up with active listening, you can start by actively initiating the conversation.

3.  Getting Rid of Awkwardness through Empathy

Most people in a new social situation have some concern about making a mistake.   In fact, that’s the basis for the fear of public speaking, because it is the same social awkwardness people have when speaking to individuals writ large by the fact that you are speaking to an entire group of people at once.   But just remember, that the audience member has some concern as well.   Are they going to enjoy this speech, or will they have to be bored for 5-7 minutes and then clap politely afterwards?     Whether they paid money to attend your speech or not, they did spend at least their time when they could be doing something else listening to you instead.   So you deserve to give them your best effort.

If you are nervous meeting a group of strangers at a networking function, just remember … everyone else is probably nervous but they may not visibly show it.    The only person’s nervousness you will probably be intimately aware of is your own.   But because you are feeling that way, so are the others in all likelihood, so you owe it to them to help dispel some of that nervousness by taking the first step.   They will be grateful to you, and you will begin to develop that mysterious attractive essence called “charisma.”

So don’t wait for the audience to come around to your way of looking at things–go to them first and help them to really see what it is that you are saying.    Start where you are, but go to where they are–that’s the secret of connection.

The next post will cover the next proactive way of connecting namely, Connecting Requires Clarity, so … prepare!




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