How to Connect

Some days it seems the whole world is trying to communicate with me. I get a couple hundred junk emails and a couple dozen real emails every day. I get newsletters and ads and tweets and posts. I get drawings and questions from clients. Phone calls and instant messages and chats. It’s a barrage from more people and companies than I can count.

In the big picture, only a few of those count. There’s a few that are just information I need (or need to share) to do my work. And there are a few people and companies whose communication matters to me. The rest? I either ignore them, trash them or try to find some way to make them end up in my spam folders.

What’s the difference? Is it because the information these disposable communications offer is useless? No. Is it badly written or designed? Rarely. No, the problem is that a lot of communication is technically very good, well written, well designed….. but fails to connect.

At this point in our civilization and culture, we know a lot about communication. We’ve studied it, dissected it, done a/b testing, crunched numbers and for the most part we have reduced communication to a formula. Writers of books and blogs give us ten bullet points to communicate, sell or lead. We’ve tried to reduce it to algorithms and formulas. And, for the most part, if we want average results, those algorithms and formulas are good enough. They can take us from doing it badly, to doing a pretty good job.

But what if that’s not enough? What if we don’t want to do a pretty good job but a spectacular job? What if we want to design the perfect Television system for our client? Or a sustainably powerful marketing system? What if we want to grow extraordinary employees, children or relationships? What if we want to take our work to truly better places? Then we have to move past communicating well.

We have to learn to connect.

And there is no algorithm yet for real connection. But there are, fortunately, some principles. Here are a few…..

  • Connection is individual.
  • Connection is intentional
  • Connection takes time and takes maintenance.
  • Connection takes listening.
  • Connection is more about the other person than ourselves.

That last one is often the hardest. When we try to make it about ourselves, our ideas, our history, how we do it, what we’ve done, what we think needs to be done, connection rarely happens. Because connection happens not just when we SAY the other person (the client, the customer, our friends, and family.) are important, but when we actually MAKE them important by listening. By looking past what someone says in a survey to having a real conversation, to listening. And to listening over time.

Because listening over time, we learn the things that are come up again and again and again. Many times, no matter what my work is, the first time or few a client will tell me certain things are important, but over time, I see a shift as they think about it, as they mull it over in their heads, as they talk it out with others. Slowly the real priorities show themselves. We’ve gone from talking and listening, to connecting with each other through shared values and truths, through the process. Connection improves everything that we touch – work, family, faith, and our own lives.

Making connection is slow. It often doesn’t feel like “the work”. But it can be the most important part of the work. Once a team, a family, a workgroup… has connected, then there is passion in what we do together. There is power and momentum and because we are connected… a desire to make things work out that far outstrips mere professionalism or mere duty.

Over the years, I’ve written hundreds, maybe thousands of pieces. Proposals. Marketing pieces, Social media blurbs. I know the formulas and I can design and create a fairly good product or design by following the rules. Or I can do a spectacular job for my clients and relationships if I spend that up front time connecting, not merely communication.

And so can you.

Be well. Travel Wisely,

Tom

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