Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Requires Patience

This is the fourth chapter of John Maxwell’s book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, which contains the principle that Connecting Requires Energy.     In this third part of the chapter, he discusses the third way of using energy to connect to others, namely Connecting Requires Patience … so Slow Down!

1.   The Cognitive Corridor

Everyone has a capacity for receiving and processing information, but that capacity changes with the person and the subject matter under discussion.    There is a “cognitive corridor” people have where if you … are … talking … too … slow, people will be impatient for you to continue, and that impatience will cut off their processing of your message.    If you are speaking too quickly, however, they will get frustrated and that frustration will again cut off their processing of your message.   You want to be in the Goldilocks zone, where you are speaking neither too quickly nor too slowly.

The problem on a practical basis is that, different audiences will have different comfort levels regarding how much information you can throw at them on a given subject.   If I am doing a speech on project management to a “layman’s” audience, most of whom are not project managers, I will be doing it a different way than if I am doing a speech on project management to project managers.

So, as the last post said, you have to know your audience.    Everyone in the audience will have a different capacity, and you can’t really go at the pace that is comfortable for everyone, so you have to choose to give information at a rate which will encompass at least most of the audience.

2.  Err on Slowing Down, not Speeding Up

New Yorkers are not just perceived to be faster talkers than people in the rest of the country, they are faster listeners as well.   There is the old joke about the shortest interval of time for New Yorkers being the difference between the time the light changes and the time the person behind you starts yelling, “hey, waiting for any particular SHADE of green?”    But because they perceive a silence in the conversation more quickly than others in a group made up of people from around the country, they will try to fill in that gap more quickly, and they end up talking over others, contributing to the stereotypical image of New Yorkers being rude.    No, in their mind they are not being rude, they just talk that way.

The problem about a pace of speech for a particular topic is that, since you do know the subject in and out, you can speak very quickly and understand every word of what you are saying.    Not so your listeners:   especially those people who are coming to the subject matter for the first time.   You need to use different methods of “grabbing” the audience.   Don’t just describe abstract ideas, but think of concrete images, words, and stories that will allow anyone in the audience to not just understand, but to experience the meaning of your speech.

3.  Pausing is Your Friend

One of the roles in Toastmasters is that of the “Ah Counter”, which, as the name of the role implies, is a person who counts how many times an “ah”, “us”, or other so-called “filler word”  is used by a speaker.   Why do we use these words?   If you are speaking more rapidly than you can think, when you get to a point where you are know the next idea you are going to express, but haven’t yet formulated the words with which to express it, you use a filler word such as “ah”, or “um” as a stalling device so that you can continue using your mouth BEFORE it has something intelligent to say.    The problem, of course, is that this verbal stammering makes you sound not so intelligent.

One way to stop using these words is to recognize when you are at the end of a thought and want to the turn to the next one.   At this point, pause, say nothing but have your eyes move around the audience to let them know there is a consciousness still functioning there.    This will do two things:   it will allow you the time you need to complete your next thought before you utter it, and it will allow your audience the time they need to absorb your LAST thought, and anticipate your next one.   So it’s a win-win situation.    A symphony is not just a progression of notes, the musical equivalent of Winston Churchill’s humorous description of history as consisting simply of the story of one damned thing after another.   No, there are musical phrases, pauses between the phrases, and then pauses between the major movements.   They all tie together in the same piece, but silence prepares people for the change of mood that accompanies the changes between the movements.

You should learn to pause more, so that people have time to enjoy your presentation not as a quick trip through a fast-food drive through , but as a more leisurely full-course dinner.


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