You have likely heard the expression you have two ears and one month for a reason, and that you should use them proportionately. In other words, you should be listening more than you should be talking. However, this doesn’t seem to be a well understood concept for everyone.
At the heart of connecting with others is being able to listen, and to do this well. Yes, this seems overly simplistic, but in reality, it’s not. Truly listening and hearing what someone is saying takes focus and practice. Consider the last time you spoke with someone. Do you think they were intently paying attention to everything you were saying? Or, were they like most people, and only semi involved in the conversation and doing a lot of head nodding and saying “ungh-hungh”?
When it comes to connecting with other people, the ones who have mastered this are similar to a Swiss Army Knife. You know, the kind of knife that has lots of different tools on it which can be used in many different circumstances. The act of connecting with a person is not a single dimension activity. Although listening well is one of the components required to connect with someone, it’s only one of the actions involved with the process.
If you were to break down the visual process of being able to connect with other people, it likely wouldn’t be a straight-line diagram. In fact, it would probably look like a scatter gram plotted across a sheet of paper. It would contain many starts and stops, and multiple directions in the visual engagement plotted on paper prior to landing at an end point. The end point also might in fact be the actual starting point of the connection being made, or taken to a different level of connection.
Why does it look easy for people who are good at making connections with others? It’s because like a Swiss Army knife I referenced earlier, the person establishing the connection is skilled at leveraging all of the tools required to develop a human connection.
Can this be a skill that is taught? Yes, I believe it can be taught, but don’t expect it to be like a drive through window experience with instant gratification. The analogy I would use in terms of the time it takes to learn how to master connecting with others would be similar to taking on an apprenticeship in a trade skill such as electricity or plumbing. It’s going to take time to become a pro.
So, what are the things you or someone you know who wasn’t born with the innate skills of being able to establish meaningful connections with others can do to improve your skills in this area? Here are some ideas I have for you.
- The next time you are talking to someone, pay attention to whether you are really, and I mean really listening to them. Actively listening is a skill which needs to be fostered and practiced.
- While you are listening to the person you are speaking with, make sure you are asking them thoughtful questions which are on point, and not disruptive to the conversation.
- Don’t try to change the subject you are talking about. Let the person speaking control where the conversation is headed and captain it. Remember to play the role of a co-captain during the conversation and to be supportive of what they are saying.
- Connecting well with others also involves determining points of common interest you share. By asking the right questions, you can establish at least one item you have in common. Use this as a thread in your conversation to build upon to help further develop the connection.
- Test your connection strength. If the person you are engaging with is only providing short, one-word answers and not conversing with you, the connection you have is weak. To strengthen the connection during your conversation, start asking the person questions about themselves. I have shared this tip before, and it’s almost foolproof to help you elongate the conversation. This will give you an opportunity to keep an otherwise dead-end conversation going.
- Your body language can work against you when you are trying to connect with them. One of the best ways to increase a positive connection is to mirror the body language of the person you are speaking with. However, if they have their arms folded across their body while speaking with you, make sure your arms are down by your sides. Crossed arms are a sign the person is not open to establishing a conversation or connection with you.
- Think of someone you know who is a “pro” connector. Listen and watch them in action. There is a great deal to learn from them.
As I mentioned earlier, developing your connection skills will take time. The sooner you start to work on either developing or improving them, the sooner you will start to experience the benefits of being a strong connector. Remember, most amazing “connectors” are natural at this, but everyone can become better at this skill. Be patient with yourself as you are developing your “connector” muscles. They will emerge at some point after you have invested time in developing them.
Kathleen E. R. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Performance Strategist and CEO of Market Me Too. She is a Gallup Certified Strengths Finder Coach, author of Wisdom Whisperer and Evolve! With the Wisdom Whisperer (published in December 2019), and is a well-respected motivational and social influencer with a global following from her numerous speaking, print, radio and television media appearances. She also is the creator and Host of a TV Show and Podcast called Murf & E Unfiltered – Zero BS Biz Talk.
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