This week is a continuation of a series on Effective Communication as we journey through John Maxwell’s book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect (Click link to buy the book!). Our focus this week is on how to grow in your effectiveness and ability to connect with people in a group or meeting.
For many of us, having to get in front of a group of people brings up some anxiety and indigestion. We don’t like it, it feels awkward, we sweat profusely, and if I had a choice between this and sitting in a tub full of scissors... Sound familiar? Or maybe, you like being in front of the group and it’s something that comes natural to you. Either way, this blog will help you improve your ability to connect with people in a group.
So how do you increase your effectiveness in connecting with others in a group? I think it begins by asking yourself the following questions...
Who is My Audience?
In order to connect with others in a group, it's important to know as much about them, their motivations, and their values as possible. Here are some key questions to ask as you prepare to connect:
Who are they?
What do they care about?
Where do they come from?
When did they decide to attend?
Why are they here?
What do I have that I can offer them?
How do they want to feel when we conclude?
How Can I Connect with New People?
What if you are preparing to connect with a group where there are people that you have not met before? In the chapter, “Connecting Always Requires Energy”, Maxwell quotes Susan RoAne’s “Ten Tips from the Mingling Maven” that she used when meeting new people:
Strive to make others feel comfortable.
Appear to be confident and at ease.
Have an ability to laugh at yourself (not at others).
Show interest in others; maintain eye contact, self-disclose, ask questions, and actively listen.
Extend yourself to others; lean into a greeting with a firm handshake.
Convey a sense of energy and enthusiasm.
Are well rounded, well informed, and well-mannered.
Prepare vignettes or stories of actually occurrences that are interesting, humorous, and appropriate.
Introduce people to each other with an infectious enthusiasm (there is no other kind) that motivates conversation between the introducees.
Convey respect and genuinely like people - the core of communicating.
What Do People Want to Know?
Whether you are leading a team, a department, a meeting, or pitching an idea to a customer, it is incredibly important to understand what it is that those you are hoping to connect with are asking of you - the communicator.
In a nutshell, here are six things that the people you are connecting with want to know…
That you will go first and lead by example
That you will only ask them to do what you have done or are willing to do
That you will teach them to do what you have already done
That their success is more important to you than your success
That they will get credit for their accomplishments
That you will celebrate their success
How do I Cultivating a “Common Ground Mindset”?
Availability - “I will chose to spend time with others”
Listening - “I will listen my way to common ground”
Questions - “I will be interested enough in others to ask questions”
Thoughtfulness - “I will think of others and look for ways to thank them”
Openness - “I will let people into my life”
Likability - “I will care about people”
Humility - “I will think of myself less so I can think of others more”
Adaptability - “I will move from my world to theirs”
Am I Looking to Give or Receive?
Think back to the last interaction you had where you were communicating with a group. Were you giving - or were you asking them to give to you. Take a moment and look down deep. Is that coming from a need for approval? Possibly a need to be lifted up or to be just a bit better than everyone else? Maybe it’s something different all-together. The first step to increasing your effectiveness as a communicator will be to identify what is keeping you from doing so effectively up until this point. To find this out will require an examination of your heart and motivations.
What are My Barriers to Connecting with Others?
Some of you have been waiting for this section because of your past experiences. You may be thinking, “Yeah, great bullet points (and lots of them), but connecting with people is harder than it looks.” My response is - Yep! Lots of bullet points...haha, and connecting with people is challenging, incredibly frustrating at times, requires an inordinate amount of energy, and...if you are not willing to invest in connecting with people, you will never reach your full potential as a leader or in your relationships with people. Period.
So what are some barriers to connecting with others? Here are a few to think about:
Assumptions: “I already know what others know, feel, and want”
Arrogance: “I don’t need to know what others know, feel, or want”
Indifference: “I don’t care to know what others know, feel, or want”
Control: “I don’t want others to know what I know, feel, or want”
As you look ahead to your calendar for the remainder of this month, where are your opportunities to connect with others in a more genuine and dynamic way? Maybe as you have been reading this, the wheels have been churning already of the opportunities that lie ahead of you - some of them being low-hanging fruit, while others are going to require additional effort, energy, and intentionality.
Here’s something for you to reflect on after your next meeting with a group of people:
Simmons Values: A Checklist for Connecting with Others
DID I ADD VALUE TO PEOPLE?
PUT PEOPLE FIRST
DID I DO MY ABSOLUTE BEST?
ACT WITH INTEGRITY
DID I UNDERSTAND AND RELATE TO THE GROUP?
DID I INVOKE REFLECTIVE, CREATIVE, OR INNOVATIVE THOUGHT & DISCUSSION?