If it is true that almost everything we become and accomplish in life is with and through other people, then the ability to create rapport with them is the most important skill we can learn. Looking back at the early and middle stages of my career, I identified six practices that helped me to connect with others. I trust that they will be beneficial to you in honing your skills as a connector.
1. I Understood the Value of Connecting With Others.
As a young leader, I quickly bumped up against my personal limitations. I realized that what I could accomplish on my own paled in comparison to what I could get done by linking up with others. I became aware that my influence depended upon my ability to connect with those around me, and I switched my mindset from being a solo producer to being a people developer.
2. I Studied and Imitated Connectors That I Admired.
As a young leader, I had an insatiable appetite to learn from the leaders who seemed effortlessly to connect with others. First, I looked at how the person connected. That is, what strategies did she employ to get through to the audience? Second, I observed how long the person connected. It’s far easier to catch someone’s attention than it is to hold his attention for an extended period of time. As I studied the great connectors, I attempted to incorporate their methods into my own communication.
3. I Determined to Be Myself and Build on My Strengths.
Though I relied on the example of expert communicators, I also resolved to connect authentically by drawing upon my own unique talents. Gradually, my question morphed from, “What do they have that I want?” to “What do I have that they want?” As I tapped into my natural abilities, I began to develop a distinctive style around my strengths.
My Style of Connection
(1) Humor: I enjoy my audience, subject, and myself.
(2) Authenticity: I do not teach anything that I do not live or believe.
(3) Confidence: I naturally feel good about others and myself.
(4) Hope: I love to uplift people and encourage them.
(5) Simplicity: I am not an intellectual, and I enjoy making my lessons easily understandable.
4. I Did My Homework.
If you are a gifted at forming relationships and do nothing to improve, you’ll still be in the top 50% of connectors. Do something in the way of personal growth from time to time, and you’ll be in the top 10% of connectors. However, to make the top 1%, you’ll need to do homework every day on how to get through to others.
5. I Asked for Feedback.
As Stephen Covey says, “It takes humility to seek feedback. It takes wisdom to understand it, analyze it and appropriately act on it.” When soliciting feedback, ask those who possess the capacity to connect. Only seasoned connectors can offer you reliable feedback; others can only speculate about what you did right or wrong.
6. I Practiced.
The art of connection takes time to master. I started off as a terrible communicator; I was long-winded and uninteresting. Thankfully, I was determined to improve. After gaining experience, I began to think more about the context of connection than its content. That is, I learned to focus on my audience rather than myself. I began to rehearse my messages in front of one person, and then in the presence of a small group, before delivering them to large audiences. The extra practice on the front end tremendously aided my ability to connect during actual speaking engagements.
In preparing to connect with another individual or group this week, practice the follow three steps:
1) Research and Develop Your Message
With whom are you trying to connect? What motivates them? How have others successfully connected with them? What resources could prepare you for your conversation with them?
2) Refine Your Message
After you’ve developed your message, seek counsel from others. What do they like or dislike about it? What recommendations do they have for making the message better?
3) Rehearse Your Message
Give your message a trial run in front of another person. Did you feel confident communicating it? How could your delivery improve?