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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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