Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting in an E-mail

In the fifth chapter of his book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell discusses his fifth principle of connecting, namely, that connecting is learnable skill rather than a natural talent that only the few possess.

In the previous sections of the chapter, John Maxwell’s friend Charlie Wetzel discusses five ways in which John Maxwell connects well with an audience, and four ways in which he connects well when he is networking on an individual basis.   In the final section of his comments, Charlie Wetzel discusses the principle behind how John Maxwell connects when he using the written word.

1.   The Main Point

Charlie Wetzel says that when he captures John Maxwell’s ideas in writing, he tries to “create the same response in a reader that John would get it if he were conveying it personally.    What does this imply?    You try to convey the personal touch of a face-to-face meeting without the physical content of a person being present.   How is this done, with the understanding that the person cannot respond to you in real time?

a.  Understand Others

Here you cannot reach out and ask questions and draw the person out.    If you are conveying information, however, invite the person to ask questions.    You can understand others by trying to understand what you would want to read if you were receiving the information.

If you give too many details, it can make the correspondence to lengthy.   I always fear there being confusion about what I am saying, so I tend to do this and write too much detail.    Yes, if I shorten the communication, it CAN lead to a possibility of heightened confusion, but that possibility already exists, and you will make your reader grateful if you keep you communications short and to the point.

b.  Help Others

If you giving someone a task to accomplish, let them know you are cutting them adrift with the responsibility, but no authority or worse, no resources with which to carry out the task.   Let them know what resources you are willing to lend them in terms of your time of advice.    They are not alone!

If you are imparting information, make sure you write it in such a way as to be useful to the reader, while keeping to the “short and to the point” rule mentioned above.

c.   Include Others

You can tell people that when you read this information, you thought of them because you thought it might be useful to them.   That personalizes it rather than just being a datum you are passing along.

d.  Add Value to Others

Don’t just impart information, impart confidence.   Mention past triumphs that the reader has accomplished, extol their virtues, and give them a vision to reach out for.    Their lives will be improved by your having send them the information, not just because the information is worthwhile, but because the way you sent it to them.

And going beyond the word of e-mail, make sure you take the time out to send out good old-fashioned “thank you” cards to people who have done a good job.   They may not mean much to the Millennial generation, but people in their 30s or over will appreciate it as an example of manners that they probably have not seen for a long while.

2.   Tear Down This Wall

The wall in this case is the reserve that people normally have, which is a wall they build around themselves to protect their ego.   It also prevents hurtful things from coming out, in that it prevents you from saying things which may be hurtful to others, albeit truthful.

When I write to a person, I tend to hide behind my reserve and use more formal language.    You should try to write the same words as if you are sitting in the room with the person to whom you are sending the communication.    In a letter, “Dear …” is an acceptable formula.   In an e-mail communication, would you say “Dear …” to the person you are writing to?   No, unless it is a term of endearment, which in this context, is probably not the case.   You would say, “hello” or “hi”.   In an e-mail that is acceptable, because that is an informal means of written communication.

The distinction between informal and formal is not ironclad, because many Millennial students studying for the PMP exam in the workshop we put on honestly thought that e-mail is formal communication, with informal communication being texting.    Well, relatively speaking, it is more formal, but compared to a written letter, it is still informal.

However, even in a letter you can, if you are writing to someone with whom you have an already-established relationship, write in a style that is more conversational and less “organizational speak”.    This closes the distance between you and the reader, whereas the “organizational speak” deliberately creates distance and induces an inequality into the relationship.

The fact that John Maxwell, as a famous person, goes out of his way to connect with people as just another person is a testament to the fact that he, unlike many famous speakers I have heard, is not in need of what I call an “ego-bypass operation.”    He bypasses it all the time itself, and that is why is such a beloved speaker and leader!

Tomorrow’s post wraps up the chapter with John Maxwell’s challenge to the reader–on the one hand, the fact that connecting is a learnable skill means that there is hope for everyone!    On the other hand, it means that no one is off the hook for being a bad connector–you can always do something to improve, you should always do something to improve, and if you are going to be an effective leader, you must always do something to improve!


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