Stop Communicating – Start Connecting

I’m off to a big networking event this week.

I was telling a client today and he said ‘make sure you give your business card to as many people as possible and communicate what you have on offer’.

That provoked a lovely conversation after I replied ‘That is the last thing I’ll be doing…’

Repost! Some 6 years ago I wrote the following about the difference between ‘Connection & Communication’. With my big networking event I thought I’d dust it down and give it another run out there!

Stop Communicating – Start Connecting

In his book The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, Peter Senge notes: Among the tribes of northern Natal, the most common greeting, equivalent to “hello” in English, is the expression: “sawu bona.” It literally means “I see you.” If you are a member of the tribe, you might reply by saying “sikhona” or “I am here.” The order of the exchange is vital: until you see me I do not exist. It’s as if when you see me, you bring me into existence.

If we are to accomplish great things in our businesses and in our lives there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which, regardless of job title or position has you dead in the water. Ready?

Human beings have a need to be KNOWN, to be SEEN, to be CONNECTED WITH – not communicated to.

I wish I had a quid for every person that has said, “We don’t communicate enough.” Even though I don’t always say it in that moment – I KNOW they are perfectly capable of communicating plenty.

In fact, I ‘d wager my mortgage that you are constantly communicating messages, an attitude, or signals that people pick up on . For example, they see, hear or feel from you; ‘I’m bored with this discussion’, ‘I think your wonderful’, ‘I’d rather be somewhere else’, ‘I’m right here – nowhere else’, ‘I’m saying I’m behind you but it doesn’t look like it, does it?’ ‘I’m mad’, ‘I’m sad’, I’m glad‘ and on it goes.

I promise you, you do not need to communicate anymore stuff than you do now (indeed, probably less would be helpful).

The key to securing greater engagement from your troops and bigger loyalty from your customers is learning how to connect with them.

Make it your business to let them feel seen, heard and known.

Connection IS THE currency of enrollment, loyalty, unstoppable commitment, satisfaction and engagement. We do our best with and for people we connect with simply because we want to. No stick or carrot required.

So how can you tell if you are deeply connecting or skimming the waves of communication? Here’s how.

You are engaged in an exhausting struggle to get others to do what you want, to raise their game, to accomplish more, to buy your service or product. You’ve tried persuading, instructing, provoking, entertaining and manipulating and nothing shifts, inertia reigns.

Exasperation and boredom. If that’s your current reality, then… plenty communication – no plenty connection.

That’s it? Yes, really. Struggle and inertia = no connection. (Fox’s corollary: Some people we just don’t connect with. Full stop. If you are sure you have given it your best shot… surrender to the reality and redefine what’s really possible in that relationship.)

Unarguably, our customers experience of the world is more dehumanised now than ever with all the automated systems and ‘synthetic human’ voice mails, emails and so on.

But, of course, that now means that the smallest show of humanness carries even more kudos.

This can mean anything from hand-writing letters to them , being interested in ‘who they are’ not just what they can give you, exposing them to your front line troops not just the slick pros. But it boils down to this: if you connect with and humanise your customer’s experience, you stand out an extra mile.

Interestingly, we can also assume that if the relationship is difficult or messy sometimes then real connection is not possible, or maybe, if we are being a lazy pants it’s just not worth the hassle.

Boom! That’s where the greatest connection possibility lies.

Real relationships ARE messy. People can be really annoying when you get to know them and their ways. But the alternative, of arranging our relationships so that we avoid discomfort, means living life at such a superficial level that we never get to push the edge and grow…. and deeper connection is absented from our interaction.

In my own life, I know that the people I am most connected with are the ones whom I sometimes irritate, and sometimes get peed off with – and it isn’t always easy of course, and sometimes I’m tempted to see people less if I’m irritated.

A choice. We can choose to anticipate breakdowns and recognize them as the natural result of expanding relationships and deepening connection. We can draw to the surface undiscussable, dangerous issues without inciting people to anger.

Instead, we can invite them to talk about dangerous subjects from an atmosphere of mutual interest. Actually, its impossible to deepen connection without a willingness to enter the dis-comfort zone.

Where are you missing out on the deeper connection because you are avoiding dis-comfort or falsely believing it to be a ‘negative aspect of relationships?

Connection Top Tips:

It’s very easy (to easy one thinks) to communicate via email, text, Facebook. Its verrrrrrrryyy difficult to connect by email. Enough said?

Human beings are gloriously complex and have hidden depths to discover (I exclude ‘Big Brother’ participants).

Make it your mission to find out new things about your significant people. Think to yourself not “What can I tell them, but what can I find out about them?”

Lead with questions not answers – ask more questions than you receive.

Humility and vulnerability fosters connection. It’s OK to be wrong, to admit mistakes, to be an imperfect leader or manager. Give yourself a break. Spare me “I couldn’t admit to that, it wouldn’t look professional…”

Show up as a human being first and Owner, MD, CEO, FD or whatever second. People work for, are loyal to, commit to, respect… WHO YOU ARE – not your title.

Paul Fox

Paul Fox has been active as a Construction Industry Performance Coach for the last 20 years and remains at the forefront of Collaborative Working and High Performance Team Behaviours. He disrupts the status quo of individuals, project and senior teams who want exponentially more output with much less struggle.

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