Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: The Inspiration Equation (2)

In this ninth chapter of his book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell discusses the fourth set of principles for connecting, namely, that connectors inspire people.

The converse of this is also true, namely, that people who do not connect do not inspire, and in the worst case, they can even discourage others.

Now, this post will get into the meat of the chapter, which is what John Maxwell calls the Inspiration Equation, where he lists the elements you need to have in order to inspire your audience, namely:

  • What They Know
  • What They See
  • What They Feel

In this second segment, John Maxwell discusses the second element, “What They See.”

B.  What People Need To See

Often people make decisions on whether they are going to pay attention to you based on what they see.   According to John Maxwell, here’s what they’re looking for:

1.  People Need to See Your Conviction

John Maxwell relates the words of Larry Phillips, who described genuine heartfelt convictions as coming across as “words of steel”, as opposed to “words of tin” which dent easily when they are hit.    You need to believe in the argument you’re advancing.

However, I would like to add that you need to believe it because it is right, rather than believing it is right because you happen to believe it.    In this way, if the belief is challenged, you can see it as a challenge to the belief and not a personal challenge.    You need to have enough emotional distance to be able to take those hits against your “words of steel” without being fazed by them.

2.  People Need to See Your Credibility

John Maxwell relates that if you are one-time speaker, people will often give you the benefit of the doubt, as long as your credentials are good.    This is why getting a good introduction from the Master of Ceremonies is important, because it sets you up as someone whom the audience can trust.   If you’re going to speak to the same group of people time after time, however, you have to work to maintain credibility.    This is the essence of the meaning of the phrase “someone who walks the walk, and doesn’t just talk the talk.”

3.  People Need to See Evidence of Your Character

The ultimate test of a great teacher is someone who does not just explain, but demonstrates a message so that it is not just intellectually comprehended by the audience, but experienced by them as well.

Mohandas Gandhi and Nelson Mendela were able to head political movements because they inspired not just with their words, but with their actions.   If you are talking to a group about leadership, make sure that those who hear your words also see you demonstrate leadership in action.

In summary, although an audience will make an initial impression of a speaker based largely on superficial impressions, their decision to continue listening will be based on deeper perceptions related to the speaker’s credibility and their character.

In the next post, I will elaborate on the third element of the Inspiration Equation, paying attention to “What People Feel.”


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