I recent caught up with a friend from college and it got me thinking. We hadn’t talked for over 30 years. A mutual friend of ours is not doing well and my friend wanted to see him before he passed away. We connected on that call in a way that rarely happens. Why was he so successful in connecting?
Have you ever had a conversation where you connect on a deeper level? One that made everything else stand still while you talked? What’s the secret of connecting versus broadcasting in your conversations?
We live in unusual times, we are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of messages every week. Why do so few breakthrough the noise? As we go into Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share what I learned from my friend’s call that can make you the most popular person at your next holiday party.
How do you check to see if you’re connecting or broadcasting? Take some time to evaluate your recent conversations with other people. How do they feel to you? Not what you said, but what is it like to be on the receiving end of your conversations? Are you connecting or just talking to be heard? Only you can judge this. Take time to really evaluate your recent conversations. How did you do?
As you consider your recent conversations, how would you feel if someone shared ideas the way you did? I’m a very competitive person. Sometimes I hear myself say the dumbest things to impress others. Connecting with others is not about sharing your own agenda or striving to outdo the other person.
I’m sure you never do this, but it can become second nature if you’re always in presentation mode. How many calls do you get from people who are in broadcast mode? I get quite a few. Actually, I make quite a few as well. My wife got so tired of hearing me, she put up a sign on my office wall saying “Slow down… Breathe!”
If you’re broadcasting you’re saying the same thing to almost every person you interact with. Throw away lines that you fall back on when you’re talking at people. For many of us, it’s a habit and it’s one we need to work hard to avoid. We need to understand before we choose to be understood. Stephen Covey taught me this many, many years ago. It’s more important today than ever before.
So, are you listening to the other person? By this I mean what is the person really saying? Are you providing the listener your whole attention? The art of connecting is as much about you listening as it is about what you are saying! Take time to listen when connecting.
When you ask a question, are you providing the person a chance to share fully with you? It’s easy to miss the subtle message the other person is trying to say. Connecting means more than just passing the conversation back and forth.
Connecting means having passion around what you’re talking about. Do you use vocal variety and passion to connect with the other person? My friend, like me, is a technical person. He chooses his words carefully when he’s at work.
One thing that struck me is when he called me at home on a personal issue, he reverted to the person I grew up with. He was animated and passionate about his family and his purpose in life. When talking, you could feel his empathy and connection for the people he was talking about. If I’m actively listening, I’m supporting his efforts to connect during our conversation. This means I’m not critical of what he’s saying, I’m all in to the conversation. When we are connecting it’s not just the words we say, but how we feel about what is being said.
Finally, are we connecting where the other person is, not where we want them to be? When I called, I didn’t know about our sick friend. He chose to reach out because he knew how much this person meant to me and my life. He allowed me the space to process what he said at my own pace. He could have sped up the conversation. He could have run right over the news he had to share. Instead he shared his feelings about the person while I gathered my own. His ability to tell a funny story reminded me why we were friends.
How would you handle a challenging conversation after over 30 years? He chose to reach out and allow me to make my own decision, based not on what he said, but how I felt about our shared friend. He was not worried about broadcasting a message to many people. He was present and connecting.
So are you connecting or broadcasting? It’s a decision we make every day.
See you next week for Thanksgiving holiday.