Communication and Connection

John Maxwell has written something that makes total sense. Often we assume that we are communicating information, but the reality is that we will not communicate until we connect with people on some level.

Something I know but do not feel, my communication is dispassionate.
Something I know but do not do, my communication is theoretical.
Something I feel but do not know, my communication is unfounded.
Something I feel but do not do, my communication is hypocritical.
Something I do but do not know, my communication is presumptuous.
Something I do but do not feel, my communication is mechanical.

When components are missing, the result for me as a communicator is exhaustion. However, when I include all three components- thought, emotion, and action, my communication has conviction, passion, and credibility. The result is connection. I believe you can achieve the same result when you include all three.

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Connectors Live What They Communicate

When someone new steps up into a leadership position, the people have hope. They will listen, believe and follow, but this honeymoon does not last long. Here’s how it works: the first six months, communication overrides credibility; the next six months, credibility overrides communication. Credibility is currency for leaders and communicators. With it they are solvent, without it they are bankrupt. Think of elected officials and you might see this in action.

The Truth Test: Steven Covey said, “Trust earns confidence” because trust erases worry and frees you to get on with other matters. Low trust allows for others to have hidden agendas. Lack of trust inhibits innovation and collaboration. Lack of trust will disconnect you form others quickly.

You Are Your Message: Eventually who you are will shine through. You must become the kind of person you seek to connect with.

Connecting with yourself: If we are uncomfortable with who we are, others will not be comfortable with us. If we don’t know our own strengths and weaknesses, attempts to connect with others will misfire. A spiritual gift inventory is a great tool to know yourself.

Self-talk is a powerful influencer of what we believe about our selves. If we are critical and negative in our self-talk, we cannot be confident with ourselves or with others.

Right your wrongs: How do you maintain credibility when you make a mistake? It depends on how you handle mistakes. Failure to admit mistakes causes the message to be questioned which causes the integrity of the leader to be questioned.

  1. Acknowledge: You own people an explanation when you make a mistake
  2. Apologize: It may be a painful moment but it is the right thing to do. Apologize as wide as the infraction. Get the incident behind you.
  3. Amends: Make it up to the people you have wronged.

Be accountable: Deliver on your promises. When you make a commitment, you create hope. When you keep a commitment, you create trust. We often need accountability in the areas of our weaknesses.

Lead the way you live: You cannot speak about that which you do not know. You cannot share that which you do not feel. You cannot translate that which you do not have and you cannot give that which you do not possess. Where some see a message as a lesson to be given, connector see the message of a life to be lived. For connectors, the message is an extension of who they are. You have to be what you strive others to be.

Tell the truth: Edward R Murrow once said, “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must tell the truth.” Credibility is not perfect but a willingness to admit to imperfection.

Be vulnerable: We often think that the teacher is to have all the answers; and we want to believe that and not appear weak. We all know that perfection is a mask, and we don’t trust people hiding behind these masks. They are not being honest with us and therefore are not connecting. Do we really think that people don’t already know our weaknesses? They do, and by admitting them you are letting others know they you know your weaknesses. We only win when we take chances; the hardest risk is being honest with ourselves.

Follow the Golden Rule: Maxwell writes that some organizations are like a tree full of monkeys. If you’re on the top looking down, all you see is smiling face looking up at you. If you’re on the bottom, the view is not so pretty. People can learn a lot by observing what leaders do with their power; when they interact with others who don’t have power, position or strength. The Golden Rule challenges us to treat others as we would want to be treated.

Deliver results: Peter Drucker once wrote, “Communication always makes demands. It always demands that the recipient become somebody, do something, believe something, it always appeals to motivation.” Connectors encourage others to deliver results. To expect results from others, we must deliver results ourselves. This may be the consultant syndrome. Some have never really accomplished in what they profess to be an expert. They sell a promise without a track record.

Connecting Practice: Connectors live what they commutate.
Key Concept: The only way to keep connecting with people is to live what you communicate.

Practical Steps:

  1. Does you character emphasize that you have to teach, or does it undermine it?
  2. Do you follow through on your commitments?
  3. Where to you need to improve?
  4. Are you doing what you ask your students to do?
  5. Does your track record support your teaching?
  6. Can your students depend on you to follow through on your promises?

Connectors Inspire Other People

Bill Hybels once said, “Motivated employees are 87 percent less likely to leave an organization compared to an unmotivated employee.” There is no doubt that everyone benefits from motivation. Think back to a teacher or coach who inspired you to something greater. The fact is that some people inspire us more than others do.

It all Adds up to Inspiration: As someone begins to communicate with them, people ask questions. They want to know what’s in it for them. Maxwell gives an Inspiration Equation:

What they know + What they see + What they feel = Inspiration

What People Need to Know: When non-connecting teachers think about what their students needs to know, they focus on information. Maxwell states that in the context of connecting, people need to know you’re on their side. Aristotle wrote about pathos, a communicator’s ability to connect with the feelings, desires, wishes, fears and passions of their listeners.

That you understand them and are focused on them: No one is inspired by people who are concerned about themselves. Self-centered people don’t generally connect with others. Good connectors get to know their students. They need to know that you are for them and in their corner. People do things, like making changes in their lives, for their own reasons, not for the reasons of the teacher.

Maxwell writes that a gossip is someone who talks about others, a bore talks about himself, but a brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself. What are people thinking? What are their dreams? About what do they worry?

  1. What are people saying? The most called upon prerequisite of a friend is an accessible ear. Good leaders are good listeners. Maxwell has this pattern: listen, learn then lead.
  2. What are people doing? Watch them and their behavior; including their body language.

That You Have High Expectations of Them: Abraham Lincoln once said of a sermon that it was brilliantly conceived, biblical, relevant and well presented; but it failed because it did not ask us to do something great. Inspiring communicators always expect a lot from their students. Maxwell says that management is about getting people to do what they do not want to do, while leadership is inspiring people to do what they never thought they could.

What People Need to See: If these are not present, people will simply turn you off.

  1. Your Conviction: Conviction is something you cannot fake. If the teacher does not have conviction about his subject, why should the students?
  2. Your Credibility: When people trust you, they will listen to you. If you walk does not match your talk, credibility will be lacking.
  3. Your Character: They need to see evidence of your character. A mediocre teacher tells, a good teacher explains, a great teacher demonstrates. As teachers and leaders we must strive to be the message. Connecting has a lot to do with letting who you are influence everything you do. The decision of your students to listen every week is based on a deeper perception related to the teacher’s credibility.

What People Need to Feel: This is the most important factor in the Inspiration Equation. People may not remember what your said or what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel.

Your passion for the subject and them: Vision alone does not inspire change; it must be strengthened by passion. Your teaching will be nothing if it does not come from your heart. Teaching is not just going through the motions and showing up Sunday to lead the lesson. Ask these questions each week:

  1. Do I believe what I teach?
  2. Has it changed me?
  3. Do I believe it will help others?
  4. Have I seen it change others?

You will do more than light a fire under people, you will ignite a fire within them.

Your confidence in yourself and them: Passion motivates because the questions asked is, “Is it worth it?” People must also see your confidence and ask, “Can I do it?” If you don’t have confidence in a speaker, are you likely to follow that person?

Your gratitude for them: This may be the most neglected and least expressed virtue. Silent gratitude is not good for anyone. Matthew Henry once wrote in his diary about being robbed, “Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

Action – Inspiration at the Highest Level: Often we encourage people, make them feel good, help them to feel confident, but they never more on toward action. Action changes lives.

Say the right words at the right time: Timing is often the difference between success and failure.

Give people an action plan: For most people, their knowledge far outweighs their follow-through. A motivational speaker wants you to feel good; while the motivational teacher wants you to do good. Make lists of what you have learned by using this ACT plan:

  1. Put an A next to the items you want to apply.
  2. Put a C next to the items you need to change.
  3. Put a T next to the items you need to teach to others.

Make a Commitment to Continually Inspire Others: One linguist notes that in 20 primitive languages, the word hearing and doing is the same word. Actor Will Smith once said, “The way I like to measure greatness is: How many people do you affect? In your time on earth, how many people can you affect? How many people can you want to make better? Or how many people can you inspire?” The true test of inspiration is action.

Connecting Practice: Connectors inspire people.
Key Concept: What people remember most is how you make them feel.

Practical Steps:
Character, above all else, will make the greatest impression on people.

  1. A heart to serve.
  2. A person of good values.
  3. A helping hand.
  4. A caring spirit.
  5. A believing attitude.

People want to know what you have done, this adds credibility.

  1. That you can lead by example.
  2. That you will only ask them to do what you have done or are wiling to do.
  3. That you will teach them only what you have already done.
  4. That their success is more important than your success.
  5. That they will get credit for accomplishments.
  6. That you will celebrate their success.

Your students need to know that you enjoy being with them and want to help them; that you are a friend, that you are not perfect, but growing, that you are conversing with them, not talking down to them, that you believe in them and they can believe in themselves.

Connectors Create Joyful Experiences

The Word of God is never boring; I believe it is a sin to bore a student. Boring is the one phrase that would accurately describe someone who is not connection to others. We need to develop a system of collecting quotes, stories and illustrations that add to the topic. Here are a few tips on how to be interesting:

Take Responsibility for Your Students: In the long run, there are never any bad audiences, only bad teachers or speakers. If the students are asleep, something needs to happen to wake them up. Grabbing attention is the responsibility of the teacher, not your students. You will likely quote the proverb that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink; but think about ways you can make that horse thirsty. You need to work to keep your students engaged in what’s happening. We can never have a take-it-or-leave-it mindset. That is what John Maxwell calls “cemetery communication,” lots of people out there but nobody’s listening. Our job is to create interest, activate the audience, enjoy the experience and add value to others.

  1. Charisma is what causes your students to want to hear more. Think about a conference you attended, the time goes by so quickly, interest is captivated, and you really enjoyed being there.
  2. Charisma is something you can develop; it is not a natural talent that draws people toward someone. Always ask yourself how you might better draw in your students.

Communicate in Their World: Maxwell tells a story of a traditional father balking at changing a diaper; he did not know how. Then the mom said, “Lay out the diaper in a diamond shape, put second on home plate, but the baby’s bottom on the pitcher’s mound, hook up first and third, slide home underneath. If it starts to rain, the game is not called, you start all over again.”

There are always important things in life, but people do not remember what we think is important, they remember what they think is important. There are a lot of voices out there calling for the attention of your students. If you want to make an impact, you must meet them in their world. To connect in their world, you have to link what you want to say to what other’s needs are.

This is good: if you talk at me, you’ll talk alone; if you talk to me, I’ll listen; if you talk about me, I’ll listen for hours. Always maintain authenticity when you try to meet them in their world.

Capture People’s Attention from the Start: If you don’t capture their attention from the start, they will take the remote and click you off. Always make a good first impression; you will never get a second chance to make a first impression. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Comments: about today and some current non-controversial event.
  2. Introduce yourself: if there are guests, they don’t know you and you will never connect with them.
  3. Use humor: it brings people in, but don’t make the humor a lame joke. Try it out on the kids first, unless you’re looking for a groaner.
  4. Create a sense of anticipation: you’re about to add value to their life, get excited and hopeful, they are about to learn something, ask them to tell what they learn to another person.
  5. Activate your students: It is easy to connect with someone who is highly energized and active. Are they taking notes, reading their Bible, searching for another Scripture, making eye contact, nodding in agreement?
  6. Ask questions: Don’t get too specific but ask ones where 90 percent of the students should be able to answer.
  7. Get people moving: Break the routine and get them to stretch, move around or get into smaller groups.
  8. Ask people to interact: When students become involved, it increases their energy.

Say it So it Sticks: Some quotes are remembered long after they are spoken.

  1. Give me liberty or give me death – Patrick Henry.
  2. I regret that I have but one life to give for my country – Nathan Hale.
  3. A government of the people, by the people and for the people – Abraham Lincoln.
  4. Never, never, never give up – Winston Churchill.
  5. Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country – John F. Kennedy.
  6. I have a dream – Martin Luther King Jr.
  7. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall – Ronald Reagan.

Link what you say to what people need: Nothing makes a lesson more memorable than need.

Find ways to be original: There is a direct impact on predictability and impact. The more predicable they think you are, the less impact you will have on them.

  1. Use Humor: possess the ability to laugh at yourself, and let people know that you are as human as the next guy.
  2. Say Things in an Interesting Way: A catch phrase said creatively can catch on and make a connection
    1. A person must sacrifice to get to the top, or you have to give up to go up.
    2. Relationships are important to influence people, or people won’t go along with you until they can get along with you.
    3. People won’t listen until they know you care, or people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
  3. Learn to Pause: Connecting is a two-way street; a dialogue, not a monologue. Allow people time to respond and give feedback. When you are a non-stop speaker, people’s minds disengage.
  4. Be Visual: We are a part of the MTV generation, with YouTube, movies and camera phones. Add spice to your presentation by finding a video clip, magazine article or newspaper clipping that makes your point.
  5. Tell Stories: Nothing is better than a story to keep people engaged. Cold facts will rarely connect with people. People connect with stories, not statistics. Jesus was the master communicator; and he use stories to make his point. Scientists say that our brains are wired more for stories than for abstract ideas and PowerPoint slides.

Connecting Practice: Connectors create an experience everyone enjoys.
Key Concept: Work to create the right experience for your communication setting.

Practical Steps:

  1. Strive to create a sense of intimacy with your students.
  2. Help your group to have a sense of shared accomplishment where they feel connected to you and the group.
  3. Try these principles in telling your stories:
    1. Enthusiasm: storytellers enjoy what they are doing.
    2. Animation: lively facial expressions and gestures.
    3. Group participation: involve your audience in some way; sing, clap, repeat phrases, do sign language.
    4. Spontaneity: while stories are memorized, storytellers respond freely to the listeners.
    5. No notes: storytellers employed a truly oral event; they told stories, they didn’t read them.
    6. Humor: humor can be included even in serious or sad stories.

Connectors Are Able to Keep it Simple

There are many things that are simple to understand, but they might not be that simple to apply. It is likely a habit of knowing where you’re going and how to get your class to that point.

What’s Wrong With Simple?

Some have a tendency to use big words in a style that is dense and difficult to understand and do so to somehow sound intelligent; like a college professor syndrome. I don’t believe it; if the teacher is so knowledgeable and good, he can make it understandable. Educators can take the simple and make it complicated, while communicators take something complicated and make it simple. We are to bring clarity rather than complexity, and making things simple is a skill.

Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it enough.” That is an amazing challenge to teachers, and is likely the main reason they might decline to serve as teachers. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “to be simple is to be great.” Remember that you don’t have to understand it all, but you need to have studies up on it more than your students.

Finding Stories and Illustrations That Will Connect to People:

  1. Humor – something that will make them laugh.
  2. Heart – something that will captivate their emotions.
  3. Hope – something that will inspire people.
  4. Help – something that will assist people in a tangible way.

Communicating Across Cultures:

As a missionary, I can appreciate this section, which I threw in just because it is funny. These are signs in English found around the world.

  1. Dry cleaners in Bangkok: Drop your trousers here for best results.
  2. Hotel brochure in Italy: This hotel is renown for its peace and solitude. In fact, people from all over the world flock here to enjoy its solitude.
  3. Hotel in Tokyo: Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not person to do such a thing is please not to read notis.
  4. Bucharest hotel lobby: The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.
  5. Hotel in Athens: Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 am. Daily.
  6. Laundry in Rome: Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.
  7. Hong Kong tailor shop: Ladies may have a fit upstairs.
  8. Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send them in all directions.
  9. Budapest zoo: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.
  10. Acapulco hotel: The manager has personally passed all the water served here.

The point is that we must say what we need to say; keep it simple, say it slowly and have a smile.

The Art of Simplicity:

  1. Talk to People, not Above Them: Daddy and son, and the boy asked why the apple is turning brown. the Dad says, “Because you ate the skin off, the meat of the apple came in contact with the air, which caused it to oxidize, thus changing its molecular structure and turning it into a different color.” After a while, the boy asked, “Dad, are you talking to me?” Sometimes we want to impress others more than we want to impact them.
  2. Get to the Point: A good test, if it takes you a while to get to the point, you’re in trouble. Get to the point before your listeners begin asking, “What is the point?” Euripides said, “A bad beginning makes a bad ending.” The point is that bottom-line thinkers want to know the bottom line. Ask yourself two questions:
    1. What do I want them to know?
    2. What do I want them to do?
  3. Say it Over and Over and Over and Over Again: The fundamental law of learning is repetition. People need to hear something sixteen times before they begin to believe it. When you say it one time, it’s heard; say it twice it is recognized; say it a third time it is learned. When it comes to vision, Bill Hybels said, “Vision leaks.” If people don’t buy in to your vision, they will eventually lose passion and enthusiasm for it. Dale Carnegie teaches, “Tell them what you are going to say, Say it. Then tell them what you’ve said.” Three essential words to connect with others, “brevity, levity and repetition, let me say that again…”
  4. Say it Clearly: The Queen Mary was named so by accident.  It was originally to be named Victoria. The king was told the vessel would be named after the greatest of all English Queens.” He said, My wife will be so pleased.” Not wanting to correct the king’s misunderstanding, they renamed it after his wife, Queen Mary. Cool Hand Luke has a classic line, “What we have here, is failure to communicate.” David Blair said to have an understanding to there won’t be a misunderstanding. In the end, people are not persuaded by what you say, but what they understand.
  5. Say Less: John Maxwell once said to an anxious audience that “If I don’t deliver in 30 minutes or less, you don’t have to pay me.” It is important to begin and end on time; better yet, end a little early. They will remember that you got to the point and finished, rather than circling the room for a landing and going over time. While it is good to keep is simple, no one gets extra points for being obscure or unprepared.

Connecting Practice: Connectors do the difficult work of keeping it simple.
Key Concept: The larger the group, the simpler the communication has to be.

Practical Steps:

  1. If you are not clear in your communication, you will probably be able to see it in their facial expression.
  2. Never simply dump information on people and expect for them to sort it out.
    1. Ask for feedback.
    2. Ask what they have heard and have learned.
    3. Ask how they might pass this information on to others.
  3. Focus on the bare essentials of what you want to communicate, not all the points of the lesson; then emphasize those points and make them memorable.
  4. In teaching truth to your students, build confidence by practicing on a few friends.

Connectors Connect on Common Ground

John Maxwell, in his book on Connecting, moves from connecting principles to connecting practices. This is the first rule of communication, the practice above all others that opens the door to connection with others would be to look for common ground. The same is true when resolving conflict with your spouse, teaching a child, closing the deal, selling a product, or communicating with your class. This may sound harsh but it’s true: it is difficult to find common ground with others when the only person you focus on is yourself.

People of different temperaments cause people to think and act differently than ourselves. Maxwell writes about different representational systems based on our five senses. For example, observe several people walking down the beach. People will experience the event differently; one feels the sun on the skin, another sees the water and the vivid colors, another hears the sound of waves lapping and gulls screeching, another smells tanning oil or funnel cakes. If we learn to pinpoint how others experience the world (and strive to experience the same world they do) communication will become more effective.

Barriers to Finding Common Ground: many people are oblivious to others around them, especially to their feelings, thoughts and values.

  1. Assumption – I already know what others know, feel and want: all miscommunication is the result of differing assumptions. Remember that all generalizations are false (including this one); once we place someone neatly in a box, it becomes more difficult to think about that person as being anything different. Assumptions usually come out of our prejudice. We then miss clues that would otherwise find and reach common ground.
  2. Arrogance – I don’t need to know what others know, feel or want: arrogant people seldom meet others on common ground. They don’t make the effort, because they believe they don’t have to. I read that 90 percent of serious controversies arise from misunderstanding, one person not knowing the facts that the other person deems important, failing to see his point of view. Archie Bunker is an example: opinionated, narrow-minded, bigoted, expected everyone to come to him on his own terms. You can’t build a relationship with everybody in the room if you don’t care about anybody in the room.
  3. Indifference – I don’t care to know what others know, feel or want: they say they found a cure for apathy, but no one showed any interest in it. They might not feel superior to others but they also don’t go out of their way to learn about them either. Perhaps because it take a lot of work. Nelson Mandela once said that “If you talk in another man’s language he understands. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” Missionaries call this sharing the gospel in the other person’s heart language. Indifference in really a form of selfishness because we don’t take the time to discover what others know, feel or think.
  4. Control – I don’t want others to know what I know, feel or think: finding common ground is a two-way street. While you strive to discover things about your students, they need to discover things about you. Some leaders believe that by keeping people in the dark they have some measure of control. Maxwell says that secrecy spawns isolation, not success. Knowledge may be power, but leaders need collective power, which only comes through collective knowledge. Any time someone thinks information is being kept from, they feel like outsiders. I recently read about the “subordinate’s Lament” that says, “We the uninformed, working for the inaccessible, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful.”

Cultivating a Common Ground Mind-set: anyone can learn to connect better because connecting is a choice.

  1. Availability – I will choose to spend time with others: common ground must be discovered, and that takes time and requires intentionality.
  2. Listening – I will listen my way to common ground: remember the “hot and cold” child’s game? We must listen to the instructions in order to locate the object. Everyday people are seeking success and purpose but they don’t know where it is. We must pay attention to others. Listening requires giving up our favorite human pastime, involvement in ourselves and our own self-interest. Students are asking, “Why should I listen to you? What’s in it for me if I let you in?”
  3. Questions – I will be interested enough in others to ask questions: the greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions. Larry King once said that he was curious about everything, and his favorite question was, “Why?” There are a couple of tricks that make conversations easier:
    1. FORM: Family, Occupation, Recreation, Message.
    2. FIRE: Family and Friends, Interests, Religious background, Exploratory questions (from CWT).
  4. Thoughtfulness – I will think of others and look for ways to thank them: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much your care. Simple acts of kindness go a long way.
  5. Openness – I will let people into my life: even the word communication comes from the Latin meaning “common.” Connection requires both parties to engage and be open.
  6. Likability – I will care about people: people like people who like them. If they don’t like you, they won’t listen to you or attend your class. Think about your own favorite teachers, I bet they were one that you liked.
  7. Humility – I will think of myself less so I can think of others more: humility is knowing and using your strength for the benefit of others, on behalf of a higher purpose. We must look out for the good of others. A humble leader can bring out the best in people. Arrogance plays up one’s strength to receive praise while humility raises up others so they can be praised. A great way to connect with others is to talk about your own flops, failures and fumbles. Some of the best ideas come out of the worst blunders. If you want to connect, don’t just talk about your successes, but also your failures. Humility comes from admitting your weaknesses, being patient with other’s weaknesses, being open to correction and pointing the spotlight on others.
  8. Adaptability – I will move from my world to theirs: sharing a meal can be a great way to do this; getting out of the comfort zone, sharing favorite food and visiting in someone’s home.

Connectors Go First:

  1. Ask, “Do I feel what you feel?” before asking, “Do you feel what I feel?” We must take people on a journey, and we cannot take them unless we start where they are. Connecting begins with feelings. If you connect on an emotional level it is easier to connect on other levels.
  2. Ask, “Do I see what you see?” before asking, “Do you see what I see?” It is not a matter of casting a vision well enough so others can see it, hoping they will then move forward. This causes us to want others to see things my way. Worse, we will assume that people already see things from our perspective. I read about a older father who looked back to when he was younger, and said he would work harder on seeing things through my children’s eyes. We often miss teaching moments because we want our kids to see things the way we see them.
  3. Ask, “Do I know what you know?” before asking, “Do you know what I know?” After years of dealing with marriage counseling, John Maxwell writes that couples’ greatest desire is to express their point of view from their perspective. They want to get the point across. Only after someone knows what the other person knows can you begin to understand how to connect.
  4. Ask, “Do I know what you want?” before asking, “Do you know what I want?” Attendance at church typically changes in cycles; winter is up, summer is down. Can we keep attendance up by giving people what they want, rather than what we want? This requires that we go beyond head knowledge to the heart. Ask of your people:
    1. What do you dream about?
    2. What do you sing about?
    3. What are you crazy about?

We are not supposed to just transmit massive chunks of information onto people; let’s invest in them.  Communication is a journey.

Connecting Practice: Connectors Connect on Common Ground.
Key Concept: Know the reasons you and your students want to communicate and build a bridge between those reasons.

Practical Steps:

  1. You must know your reason, know your other person’s reason and find a way to connect the two.
  2. You build a bridge by asking questions, gaining feedback, asking more questions, telling stories, share emotions, and offer lessons learned.
  3. In a group you can ask, “What brought us together?” or “What goals do we have in common?”
  4. In class: validate their feelings, share that you perhaps feel the same way, tell them what you found that helped you, offer to help them find help in their lives.

Connecting is More Skill Than Talent

John Maxwell writes about several things about people whom he considers to be great communicators. He was attending a conference and evaluated those who connected and those who did not:

The Non-Connectors:

  1. First: a politician who spoke in monotone, droned on and on, devoid of passion or conviction.
  2. Second: a another politician who spoke 50 minutes and said absolutely nothing.
  3. Third: A journalist who spoke down to the audience, feeling superior, making people feel like he knew something the audience did not.
  4. Fourth: a business book author who spoke with an angry demeanor, with body language, facial expressions and negative attitude.

The Connectors:

  1. Mark Russell: a DC insider with a lot of humor.
  2. Mario Cuomo: eclectic, others could feel what he felt, he moved the audience.
  3. C Everett Koop: a master of illustration, with logical arguments.
  4. Elizabeth Dole: she made everyone feel like they were friends, possessing an easy confidence.
  5. Steve Forbes: he made everything he talked about sound new.
  6. Colin Powell: put everyone at ease, gave a sense of security, had a confident demeanor that instilled confidence in others, he gave hope.

What Makes People Listen? We must learn to connect with others by making the most of whatever skills and experience we have.

  1. Relationships – who you know: Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil made it big because of who they know (Oprah). The audience had confidence in her so they put confidence in the doctors. They possessed borrowed confidence.
  2. Insight – what you know: most people want to improve their situation in life. When they find someone who can communicate something of value to them, they will usually listen. If you have an area of expertise and generously share it with others, you give people reason to respect you and develop a sense of community with you.
  3. Success – what you have done: many people will come to hear a speaker for no other reason than because of what they have done in the past. America is a success culture and people will seek out others who can help them along the way.
  4. Ability – what you can do: those who perform at a high level will gain instant credibility with others. People admire them and want to be like them. Many times they want advice on topics that have nothing to do with their area of expertise. Michael Jordan made more money with endorsements than he did playing basketball.
  5. Sacrifice – how you have lived: People followed Mother Teresa because she had street cred, she lived out what she preached. If you have made sacrifices, suffered tragedy or overcome painful obstacles, many people will relate to you.

The Art of Connecting:

  1. Possess Great Confidence: if you don’t teach with confidence, your students will remain unconvinced.
  2. Exhibit Authenticity: to connect with people you must be yourself, at your best; walking with integrity.
  3. Prepare Thoroughly: you must be familiar with your topic and lesson. A great connector cannot simply wing it.
  4. Utilize humor: rare is the communicator who is able to connect with people without using humor. Use stories from your past, or read, or hear.
  5. Focus on Others: greet all those who come to your class, find out information about them, help them to talk by talking about the subject they know best, themselves.
  6. Master Speaking and Writing: practice communicating by actually talking to people. Write notes and e-mail to your class, sharing ideas, teaching, encouragement, prayer requests.

Connecting Principle: Connecting is more skill than natural talent.
Key Concept: the skills you learn to connect at one level can be used to start connecting at the next level.

Practical Steps:

  1. Have an interest in other people; ask each person questions.
  2. Place value on that person; and point out their value to others in the group.
  3. Put their interests above your own; that sounds biblical.
  4. Express gratitude for that person; in front of other people as well.

Connecting Always Requires Energy

Connecting with others always requires energy; just think of how many low-energy relationship you have. Even if they come off as low energy, they usually possess a reserve of energy that is not evident on the surface.

They Get Out of it What You Put into it: It is important to move toward people emotionally and relationally. The more you put into your lesson, the more they will get out of it. It is very important to not wait until Saturday to compose your lesson. Begin early in the week, reading the passage and contemplating the key points of the lesson. Pray about how the information you learn will translate into a life applicable lesson for your students. When you know your material, you will have greater confidence when you walk into the room, and you will have a good idea about the time it will take to share and discuss the lesson.

Remember Key Events in the Lives of your Students: It is good to have personal information about birthdays, anniversaries, family names, even school activities and schedules. Try to create new memories by spending time together and celebrating special events.

Work at Remembering Names: It seems so simple but it is imperative if your goal is knowing your students. It is also a great way to learn names, introducing them to other people. The more people they meet the more chances they have to connect with others.

You’ve Got to Bring it: John Maxwell writes about four unpardonable sins of a communicator, and it takes energy to do each of these.

  1. Being unprepared.
  2. Being uncommitted.
  3. Being uninteresting.
  4. Being uncomfortable.

Ten Tips to Becoming a Magnificent Mingler (communication coach Susan RoAne):

  1. Possess the ability to make others feel comfortable.
  2. Appear to be confident and at ease.
  3. Have the ability to laugh at themselves (not at others).
  4. Show interest in others; maintaining eye contact, self-disclose, ask questions and actively listen.
  5. Extend themselves to others; they lean into the greeting with a firm handshake and a smile.
  6. Convey a sense of energy and enthusiasm.
  7. Are well rounded, well informed and well mannered.
  8. Prepare stories of actual occurrences that are interesting, humorous and appropriate.
  9. Introduce people to each other with an infectious enthusiasm that motivates conversation between others.
  10. Convey respect and genuinely like people, which is the core of communicating.

Five Proactive Ways to Use Energy for Connecting: One does not need to be a high energy person or an extrovert to master this energy. I am officially an introvert, but I force myself to behave like an extrovert at times. The issue is how one recharges. Introverts recharge in solitude and peacefulness while extroverts draw energy from being around people.

1. Connecting Requires Initiative: It is important to go first. Wal-mart has a wonderful strategy when it comes to connecting – “Every time a person comes within ten feet of me, I will smile, look at him in the eye and greet him.” Initiative is to any relationship what a lighted match is to a candle. Those that do not connect in our classes are likely not taking a first step toward others, so it is our responsibility to go first. Maxwell says that if you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing anything for anybody. Try to find ways to help others. Grateful people are generally much easier to connect with. Initiating a conversation with someone often feels awkward. Offering to help someone risks rejection. Giving to someone can lead to misunderstanding. Those who connect go ahead and do what the rest of us never quite get around to.

2. Connecting Requires Clarity: It is imperative that we prepare.

We prepare personally by knowing ourselves. We all have weaknesses and shortcomings, but we cannot give what we do not have, we cannot teach what we do not know, we cannot share what we do not feel. If someone is prepared for the little challenges of life, we should be ready for the bigger challenges.

We prepare for our people by knowing our class. Connecting begins with people. The more you know about your people the better you will be at connecting with them.

  1. Who are they?
  2. What do they care about?
  3. Where do they come from?
  4. Why did they decide to attend the class?
  5. Why are they in the room today?
  6. What do I have that I can offer them?
  7. How do they want to feel when the class is finished?

We prepare professionally by knowing our stuff. Situations where we teach, speak or lead, we must be prepared professionally. We must know what we are talking about. As teachers, we must prepare days in advance for the lesson to come across with power.

3. Connecting Requires Patience: It is important to slow down. We live in an impatient culture and moving at the pace of others can be very exhausting. When we slow down we can move at someone else’s pace. Good connectors don’t always run the fastest, but they are able to take others with them. They are able to set aside their own agenda to include others.

4. Connecting Requires Selflessness: In life there are people who take and those who give. One’s spirit is renewed by a teacher with a giving spirit. Even if you have said something before, people receive it well when you are a giver, but they will tire quickly if you are a taker. The giver is the person who teaches out of love, grace, gratitude, compassion, and passion.

5. Connecting Requires Stamina: It is essential to recharge. Teaching can be taxing physically, mentally and emotionally. It is important to recognize and avoid the leaks that drain us. We also must be intentional about our personal renewal.

Connecting Principle: Connecting always requires energy.
Key Concept: The larger the larger the group, the more energy it takes to connect.

Practical Steps:

  1. Before class, go to each person and introduce yourself or greet the members.
  2. Ask questions and find out information about your class members.
  3. If people are not opening up in the discussion, you might talk about their uniqueness and how it relates to the topic.
  4. Remember that preparation brings energy, and passion, which comes from conviction, brings energy.

Connecting Goes Beyond Words

Two singers perform a song; one leaves the audience with goose bumps, the other leaves the people cold. Two professors teach the same class; for one the students stand in an hour long registration line, the other class dwindles to a few students. Two mangers work in a restaurant; for one the employees are willing to but in overtime, while the other only gets excuses why they can’t stay late. Why is this a fact? What is the difference?

You’re Actions Speak So Loudly, I Can’t Hear Your Words: Verbal and nonverbal messages are not consistent. What people see us do and the tone we use can far outweigh any words we say while we are trying to communicate.

  1. What we say accounts for only 7 percent of what is believed.
  2. The way we saying accounts for 38 percent.
  3. What others see accounts for 55 percent.

If we believe that communication is all about words, we are missing the boat and will have a hard time connecting with others.

All communication has three essential components:

  1. Intellectual – something we know.
  2. Emotional – something we feel.
  3. Action – something we do.

If we fail to include any one of the three, there will be a breakdown in communication:

  1. Something I know but do not feel, my communication is dispassionate.
  2. Something I know but do not do, my communication is theoretical.
  3. Something I feel but do not know, my communication is unfounded.
  4. Something I feel but do not do, my communication is hypocritical.
  5. Something I do but do not know, my communication is presumptuous.
  6. Something I do but do not feel, my communication is mechanical.

The Characteristics of Connection: Any message you try to convey must contain a piece of you. You must be the message you want to deliver. It is difficult to try and communicate someone else’s vision. It’s hard to get excited when you’re presenting someone’s else’s ideas. To gain credibility you have to make it your vision; discover how the vision impacts you personally.

Teachers can fall into this trap when they teach right out of the quarterly. While the message is believed, we can be dispassionate about the subject if we cannot relate it to life. We must allow the lesson to flow from our own lives. That will make a greater connection. Remember that nothing happens through you until it happens to you.

Communication Checklist:

  1. Integrity – did I do my best?
  2. Expectation – did I please my students?
  3. Relevance – did I understand and relate to my students?
  4. Value – did I add value to my students?
  5. Application – did I give my students a game plan?
  6. Change – did I make a difference today?

The Four Components of Connection: Communication goes beyond words.

Connecting visually – What People See: Sight is the most powerful sense in communication, we remember 85-90 percent of what we see but less than 15 percent of what we hear. It is helpful to bring in visual aids when teaching; a movie clip, a prop, or a photograph. We are a visual society, getting news from TV and online, watching YouTube, Facebook, PowerPoint, video games and movies. They say that we have only seven seconds to make the right first impression.

  1. Eliminate personal distractions – proper grooming and clothing will help people focus on your message more than your appearance.
  2. Expand your range of expression – actors can tell much of a story without saying a single word. If your face is going to talk for you anyway, you might as well communicate something positive.
  3. Move with a sense of purpose – Don’t wander aimlessly into the room, have confidence that you have a message to share and your students are lucky to be present today. Let them see your eagerness. Move closer to the students, and don’t allow a natural barrier get between you and the students. Let them feel your energy and excitement.
  4. Pay attention to your surroundings – Take an inventory of your room to discover any clutter or obstacles to your communication. Check the lighting, and the sounds around you.

Connecting Intellectually – What People Understand: Two things are necessary; you must know your subject and know yourself. This is the difference between a good teachers and someone who knows what he’s talking about. I read a story about an event where people were asked to recite their favorite passage of Scripture. One man read the 23rd Psalm, and the audience applauded at the performance. An elderly woman who had dosed off was asked to share her passage and she recited the same psalm, and the audience was in tears. The man was asked, “What was the difference?? He replied, “I know the psalm, she knows the Shepherd.”

You also have to know yourself. You need to have confidence in your abilities. Training is always a great way to increase your abilities and confidence. When you find yourself, you find your audience.

Connecting Emotionally – What People Feel: Great leaders and teachers win over the hearts and minds of others. Notice that we don’t win the minds, or even win the minds and hearts. The heart comes first. Teachers should not rely too much on their intellect to persuade others; logical arguments and apologetics does not work if we do not capture their hearts first. Remember that people will hear your words but they feel your attitude. It’s probably why some people have charisma and others don’t; some believe it is due to personality, John Maxwell says it is more a function of attitude. Charismatic people focus on others, are outward, pat attention to others, and desire to add value to them.

Connecting Verbally – What People Hear: To make an impact we must pay close to attention to what we say and how we say it. Pay attention to pace of speech, tone, background noise; we learn through experience how to hear more than just the words in order to connect to others.

Connecting Principle: Connecting goes beyond words.
Key Concept: The more you go beyond the words, the greater the chance you will connect with other people.

Practical Steps:

  1. Connect verbally by giving the other person your complete attention.
  2. Connect intellectually by asking questions, listening carefully, and paying attention to what is not being said; by investing in the growth of your students.
  3. Connect emotionally through appropriate touch with boundaries; by honoring students’ efforts and rewarding hard work; and through facial expressions, humor and tears.
  4. Connect visually by setting the example so the group can see you live what you teach; and by smiling.

Connecting is All About Others

John Maxwell tells the story of traveling in South America and using a tour guide to point out various sites. It appeared the man was not too excited about showing off the wonderful ruins and landscape; perhaps he was all too familiar that he lost the wonder of such ancient history. You’ve probably heard a similar speech, perhaps even at a theme park attraction; the memorized speech. Sometimes what they have to say is much more important than the people they are hired to serve. Any questions can be an inconvenience to the guide, a situation that does not place any value on the tourists.

A Good Guide Draws Others In: Those who don’t get it will often see themselves as the center of the conversation. What they have to say is more important than those to whom they are speaking. Do we see the parallel to teachers yet? We have a message to share, but the message is not the most important part of the small group experience, it’s all about the people.

Self-centered Teachers Seem to Share a Common Philosophy:Ram it in – jam it in, students’ heads are hollow. Cram it in – slam it in, there is more to follow.” Good teachers, leaders and speakers don’t see themselves as experts with passive audiences they need to impress. Nor do they see their interests as most important. They see themselves as guides and focus on helping others to learn.

Sometimes when we deal with people we want them to hurry up and finish telling us their problem so we can give the solution. Perhaps we are not really listening because we are consumed with formulating our response to what they are saying. I saw a cartoon that has a man talking to a co-worker in an office setting, and he says, “There is no I in TEAM, but there is an M and an E, and that spells ME.” It’s really hard to get others interested and involved when we are me focused. When a leader attempts to cast a vision, he has to be focused on others.

Zig Ziglar once said, “If you will first help people to get what they want, they will help you get what you want.” Interaction with others is essential to communication. It is best to focus on others instead of our own needs.

It’s Not About Me: Connecting is never about us, it is about the person with whom we are communicating. We must change the focus from inward to outward.

Immaturity: When we are young, we do not see the big picture, that comes with maturity. Donald Miller says immaturity is like thinking life is a movie in which you are the star. That which we do is often all about us. Maturity is the ability to see and to act on behalf of others. Immature people don’t think about someone else’s point of view.

Property Law as Viewed by a Toddler – by Michael W. Hernandez:

  1. If I like it, it’s mine.
  2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
  3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
  4. If I had it a while ago, it’s mine.
  5. If it looks like it’s mine, it’s mine.
  6. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
  7. If I can see it, it’s mine.
  8. If I think it’s mine, it’s mine.
  9. If I need it, it’s mine.
  10. If I say it’s mine, it’s mine.
  11. If you don’t stop me from playing with it, it’s mine.
  12. If you tell me I can play with it, it’s mine.
  13. If it will upset me too much when you take it from me, it’s mine.
  14. If I can play with it better than you, it’s mine.
  15. If you are playing with it and put it down, it’s mine.
  16. If it’s broken, it’s yours.

Remember that maturity does not come with age; sometimes age comes alone.

Ego: Sometimes teachers can develop an unhealthily strong ego, which is a disproportionate sense of their own self-importance. Professional speakers and pastors need to be on guard because they might be looking for compliments after the message is over; positive strokes that say I did good or to validate my performance or competence. Maxwell says that no one can connect with others with this sort of attitude.

Failure to Value Everyone: As teachers we are to make this a priority, to value those in our classes. To succeed in life, we need to learn how to work with and through others. Maxwell tells the story of a Japanese businessman who was asked the most important trade language. Expecting to hear “English,” the response came, “The language of my customer.” Having a good product or service is not enough. Knowing your product but not your customers is like having something to sell but no one to buy.

As teachers, we must speak a language that clearing communicates the message. You can also talk to others until you’re blue in the face but people know in their if your really care about them. Are you a teacher who if fully invested in your class? Do you team teach? If so, are you also in the room the weeks you don’t teach? How do your students know that you really are invested in them if you drive by one week and then are out of their world for the next few weeks?

Insecurity: This is a sure fire reason that people will spend more time on themselves than on others. Ken Blanchard has developed a model of leadership based on the greatest leader ever to walk the planet, Jesus. He says that if a leader is Edging God Out, he will lead in one of two ways. He will either lead out of pride or out of fear. Fear manifests itself as insecurity. It says, “If these people only knew that I am not really qualified or capable to lead this group or teach on this topic, they would not follow me.”

A Matter of Connection: I read about a coffee business that changed it’s focus. While many people might believe that they are in the coffee business serving people, they are really in the people business serving coffee. That’s a great image and change of perspective.

Three Questions People are Asking About You: The point is, we must be able to communicate the attitude of selflessness.

Do you care for me? Your most important life experiences likely involve those who care about you the most. Mutual concern creates connection between people. When we learn to care about others, we learn to connect with them. Connecting with others by caring for them goes beyond profession.

  1. Business: “You can’t make the other fellow feel important in your presence if you secretly feel that he is nobody.” (Les Giblin, former national salesman of the year)
  2. Politics: “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.” (Abraham Lincoln)
  3. Entertainment: “Some singers want the audience to love them. I love the audience.” (Luciano Pavarotti)
  4. Ministry: “ I get a speech over with because I love people and want to help them.” (Norman Vincent Peale)

Calvin Miller says, when most people listen to others speak, they are silently thinking:

  1. I am lonely wanting a friend.
  2. I am weeping and want of laughter.
  3. I am sigh in search of consolation.
  4. I am wound in search of healing.
  5. If you want to unlock my attention, you have to convince me that you want to be my friend.

People live better when they care about one another.

Can You Help Me? There is an old saying in sales: “Nobody wants to be sold, everyone wants to be helped.” By helping others we often can help ourselves. As we lift others we receive a blessing and are then lifted up. In sales, I read that we are to focus on benefits rather than features. A feature may be irrelevant to the needs and interests of your audience. A benefit, by definition, is always relevant.

It is a difficult task to create a thirst for learning in your students. Many times we focus on the features (theology and theory) rather than the benefit (guidance in life, peace in your relationships, strength to withstand temptation, purpose and mission). People are bombarded with information and features. To get their attention you need to show you can help.

Can I Trust You? Have you ever bought a car? How was that experience? Much of the industry is designed to keep customers off balance, skeptical and suspicious. Trust is vital to life; it’s more important than love in relationships. Businesses want to create raving fans. These are customers who are loyal to the company or the brand. They recommend the store to their friends. If someone has a positive buying experience, they will even come back from out of state to someone they trust. When the members of our classes become raving fans, we have connected with them.

Connecting Principle: Connecting is all about others.
Key Concept: Connecting begins when the other person feels valued.

Practical Steps:

  1. Be a good listener when with other people.
  2. Ask good questions to discover what they value.
  3. Discover shared values and build the relationship based on those values.
  4. Acknowledge people’s strengths and potential contribution.
  5. Invite input and allow others to lead in their area of strength.
  6. Express appreciation for others.
  7. Do something special for your people.