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.

Communication in Marriage

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not an expert in marriage; but Kim and I have a strong commitment to each other which brings security in our relationship. In my reading and research I discovered this information to be concise and quite interesting, regarding Communication in Marriage.


Marriage counselors agree: Most, if not all, marriage problems are rooted in poor communication. We often act in our marriages as though we are soloists, singing alone and beholden to nobody. But marriage is a duet, not a solo. And the Song of Solomon shows us a real life marriage filled with the music of intimate, personal, and open communication.

Communication Levels:

Here’s the stark truth about communication in marriage: You will communicate, or your marriage will disintegrate. And marriages today that are on the rocks are there because of poor communication. Experts say there are five levels of communication:

Frivolous Level: This is the communication we experience daily in our casual relationships. The weather, the latest scores, clothes, and the like – we do this often and think about it rarely. It’s communication on “automatic pilot.”

Factual Level: This is a little more content oriented than frivolous communication. Factual communication digs a little deeper into the knowledge of various subjects. There’s still no real personal involvement.

Fellowship Level: Now, we’re beginning to get a little personal. We share ideas, judgments, and philosophies. We begin to risk rejection for our beliefs.

Feeling Level: In this kind of communication, we go a step deeper. We not only share ideas and core beliefs but we share our feelings about those beliefs. We let others know how important they are to us. This is much riskier, and it’s about as deep as most people ever get with each other.

Freedom Level: This is the deepest level of communication. We are completely open with our mate. We share our deepest dreams, fears, ideas, and feelings – without fear of rejection. The word “intimacy” comes from the Latin intimuce. It means “innermost.” And truly intimate communication encompasses all those dreams, beliefs, and feelings you wouldn’t share with anybody else. Freedom level communication is the secret of lasting love.

When the Bible speaks of a husband and wife coming together in the act of marriage, it says, so and so “knew his wife.” To be completely known and still be loved is the supreme goal of marriage. That’s true intimacy. Every marriage needs it to survive.


Intimate communication won’t happen without some adjustments, especially on the part of men. In most troubled marriages, the men won’t talk. I read about a woman who said that the only time her husband speaks is when he wants food or sex. That’s wrong. Men need to talk, whether they want to or not.

I was at a men’s conference last year and one of the best pieces of advice I heard was in a marriage seminar, where the facilitator challenged the men to ask one simple statement when your wife is telling you about her day… “Tell me more.” It may be hard after a long day at the office and all you want in peace and quiet, but this statement allows you to hear what she has to say without kicking in the male “fix it” mode. Just listen and affirm, you don’t have to fix it.

A husband’s silence is the culprit in most family communication problems. The wife, who craves communication, pushes her husband into a corner just to get him talking. She pushes and pushes, and Pow! He explodes. Ironically, this is often better to the wife than silence. At least she has his full attention. I’m not saying she intends to pick a fight. But deep down within her there is something that prefers argument to silence. She wants communication. That’s understandable. That’s how God made her.

Have you noticed how many books there are on marriage? On intimacy? On communication? Here’s the problem: The people who need them don’t read them! Women read them, but men, who truly need to adjust to their wives’ communication needs, don’t.

This is understandable. There are natural barriers to men communicating with the intimacy their wives desire. And wives need to take that into account and make some adjustments.

Consider the articles found in women’s magazines: “Five Ways to Develop Closeness in Your Marriage” and “How to Have Harmony in the Home” and “Achieving Intimacy With Your Lover.” Now what do men read about in their magazines? “How to Remodel Your Garage” and “How to Double Your Gas Mileage” and “How to Make It Big in the Stock Market.”

Yes, there are differences between men and women that affect marital communication. Some of these stem from the fact that we are raised differently. Boys are taught not to cry, not to show emotion. Part of the macho self reliance myth is silence, which supposedly communicates complete self-control.

These differences between men and women should give us all a healthy amount of understanding toward the struggles of our spouses. But they shouldn’t stop us from trying, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to imitate the intimacy between Solomon and his spouse. We’ll never arrive at perfection. But the closer we get, the happier our homes will be.

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