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Effective Communication Skills: Are You Connecting or Just Impressing?

By Maxwell Leadership | June 14, 2022
Effective Communication Skills: Are You Connecting or Just Impressing?

Ask any communication professional or skilled speaker and they will tell you that the first step in getting results through your communication is knowing and connecting with your audience. But that’s easier said than done. Often we fall into the trap of trying to impress our audience rather than making sure what (and how) we’re communicating is what will resonate with them.

If this sounds like you, read on for five tips from C.L.E.A.R. by Maxwell Leadership® Communication Guide Roddy Galbraith to help you communicate in a way that not only connects, but also leads to powerful, positive change in your audience—whether you’re communicating with one person or a room full of people.

“They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – John C. Maxwell.  

One of the most common mistakes new leaders make when trying to communicate is trying to impress the person or people they are speaking to. We’ve all done it, haven’t we? The self-reasoning behind it is very seductive: If I show them how much I know, maybe they’ll like me, accept me, listen to me, do what I want, etc. 

So why doesn’t this work? Based on John’s quote above, the answer is simple: no one cares.

Your audience is not asking themselves “Do you know more than me?”; they’re asking themselves “Do you care about me?”. That’s a big difference!

It’s only when the audience feels like they know, like, and trust you that they are interested in how you can help them, and—only then—that they are interested in how much you know.  

But even then, it’s worth keeping in mind, as Aristotle brilliantly alluded all those years ago, we love to learn, but we hate to be taught!John has said for years that people don’t want to sit at your feet and worship you. They’d much rather be a fellow traveler. This is particularly true when you’re speaking to people for the first time.


So, how do you create that connection? Well, first you have to make sure you know who you’re communicating with. Take the time to answer some basic questions about them. The better you understand who your audience is—their needs, their perspective, their goals—the better you’ll be able to connect with them:

  1. Where are they coming from (location, position/role, perspective)?
  2. What do they want (goals, desires), and what do they need (spoken or unspoken)?
  3. Are they expecting to hear from you, and are they likely to view you as an authority on the subject?
  4. How familiar are they with the subject?
  5. Could they find your message uncomfortable or threatening?

You might not be able to answer all of these with every audience, but just by demonstrating that you know something about them will go a long way in showing that you care!


Once you know who you’re communicating with, here are five things you can do to create a meaningful connection with them:

  1. Establish some common ground. It can be anything. You want them thinking that you’re their kind of people! 
  2. Affirm them in an authentic way. Make them feel good about themselves. 
  3. Have fun with them, or if sharing a serious message, ensure there’s an appropriate emotional connection. Sharing emotions through personal stories is a great way to bond. The more powerful the emotion, the tighter the bond.  
  4. Be vulnerable and share what you’ve learned from your mistakes. This will get you a lot further than telling them about all your impressive successes. 
  5. Talk to them like they’re a close friend. Having a conversational tone is a great way to connect and creates what renowned author and professional speaking trainer Bill Gove called “Conversational Intimacy.”

Use just one of these tips and you’ll find it works much more effectively than trying to impress. Learn to master them all and you’ll see that you’re not only getting great results—you’re also inspiring others to lead powerful, positive change.

Want to make developing effective communication skills an ongoing priority, but not sure where to start?

We have you covered. With C.L.E.A.R. by Maxwell LeadershipÒ, you can join a community of people just like you who are focused on their personal growth and be mentored by our C.L.E.A.R. Guide to Communication Roddy Galbraith. Learn more and subscribe—or download our app to take your personal growth resources with you wherever you go!

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