I read of the experience of a speaker who had a great experience traveling abroad. He was so happy about his experience that he instinctively thought of inviting others to share in the experience by booking a trip with his family to the same place. While on the trip with his family he thought it would be best to get a tour guide to help explain the sites. While on the trip with the guide, the speaker tried to connect with him by asking questions.
The speaker tried to start a conversation with his guide by asking questions about his background, and his family in an attempt to get to know him. However the guide never really engaged. His answers were pleasant but short. Although the guide was liked it became clear that he was not interested in the speaker nor anyone else in the group. To make it worse the guide was not going to do anything to try to connect.
When the speaker finally arrived at his destination the guide began his presentation, spitting out facts about the surroundings when a person had a question, the guide visibly looked annoyed and rushed through any questions. It seemed as if all he cared was what he was saying. For the following hours, the guide bombarded his travelers with dates and details making the experience dull and unpleasant.
What’s the point of the story? When trying to connect with others it's more about your audience and less about you. The problem here begins when the speaker sees themselves as the center of the universe, refusing to acknowledge that to connect, a leader has to spend time learning about the other person. This can be a challenge because as humans we tend to want to talk about ourselves. However, we must resist the urge and look for ways to get our audience to open up.
Here is another example. There was once a CEO who failed his company because he never did anything to connect with his people. Instead, he isolated himself from his employees and stayed in his huge office. When he did have to leave his office he made it a point to take his own elevators and avoided interactions at all cost.
His isolation and lack of connection with his employees made it impossible for him to lead the company effectively, no surprise they replaced him. The new CEO, on the other hand, made it a point to connect with his employees. He downgraded his lofty office and got one closer to his workers. He connected with his employees and led a successful turnaround.
This doesn’t only happen in the workplace; speakers have shown to discuss topics that center on what affects them. Such people really miss out when it comes to connecting with others. Good connectors don’t see themselves as the overall authority on a subject, nor do they feel that what they say is all that must be said. They don’t see themselves as having an audience that they must impress.
Instead, they see themselves as guides and focus on helping others learn. Since they value others they work on connecting with the people that they are teaching or trying to help. When I was new at speaking I admit I did not really understand this principle. I was extremely self-focus, and of course, this did not help me to connect with my audience.
If you find yourself waiting for people to stop talking just so you can tell them what to do, or when leading an initiative you find yourself saying “how can I get others to see my point; you may find it a struggle to really connect. Focusing only on yourself and craving positive feedback with the goal to be impressive will only drive a wedge between you and your people.
When I focused only on myself I saw that my failures were more than my success and I felt frustrated and unfulfilled. Connecting with others was a real challenge. My internal dialogue was almost always “why are people not listening to me?” “What can I do to get them to listen to me?” my internal dialogue was egotistical and not what I can do for people but what they can do for me.
Zig Ziglar once said “If you first help people get what they want, they will help you get what you want” This is very true. Only when we begin to put away our ego does we begin to see the true potential in connecting with others. And we begin to see how people will want to connect with us.
How do we connect?
First, begin by studying good communicators, this will help give you a template to follow. Next, try to connect with others by focusing on their needs rather than your own, it’s not about the speaker but the audience. Connecting with people is never about the speaker, it’s about the ones you’re trying to communicate to . If you want to connect well with others you must get over yourself the focus must shift from inward to outward.
The great thing about this is that anyone can do it. All it takes is:
The will to change your focus
Determination to follow through
The ability to acquire new skills
Some may wonder if it is so easy to do these things, then why do people miss the mark when it comes to connecting? Here is my opinion on the matter. When a person is strictly focused on just themselves it really is a sign of immaturity.
Think about it. When we are children we believe that the world centers around us and our needs. It is not until we get older that we begin to recognize that we are just a person with the same needs and aspirations as others. Unfortunately, some as they get others really do not grasp the reality that they are no longer the center of the universe. So quite frankly the reason why it may be hard for some to connect comes down to immaturity.
Maturity is the ability to see and act on behalf of others, while immaturity causes a person to be blind to the viewpoint of others. They rarely see what their audience sees, nor do they care to. It is not until they begin to understand that they are not the center of the universe that they begin to connect.
An interesting blog written by Thomas Smith titled: “Property laws as viewed by a toddler” makes an interesting point to the case of how children see the world. Although it was written to highlight the actions of a child, we can learn from the principles outlined in the text. If you find yourself imitating these thoughts you may want to make a maturity adjustment.
Here is how a toddler looks at the world:
If I like its mine
If it’s in my hand, its mine
If I can take it, its mine
If I had it a little while ago it's mine
If it looks like mine, its mine
If I saw it first its mine
If I think it's mine, its mine
The point here is we have to mature to the point that we see others in a position where we can value them more than just the sound of our voice.
Deep down we all want to feel important, but if we want to connect with others we have to fight against the tendency to believe that we are the center of the universe. This can be a difficult endeavor for some but it’s important to overcome if we want to connect with others.
Our ego can hinder our ability to connect
It can be very dangerous to those in a position of connecting with others to develop an ego. leaders, speakers, or teachers can develop a disproportionate sense of importance. Having an unhealthy ego is like building a wall that you can see over but those that you are trying to connect with can not.
The danger of developing an ego also hinders the impact of your words. An egoistic person wants their words to be powerful only for the purpose of making themselves seem bigger than they are so they may shower their audience with a grandiose speech with the attempt to make them seem more than are, but in the end, what really happens is they lose the connection they once had with their people if they had any.
Failure to value your audience
Failure to value your audience can also hurt your chances to connect with them. Adding value must be of the utmost importance to a speaker. This must be at the center of your purpose. When we begin to see that adding value to others is more important than feeling the room with all the words you know, for the sole purpose of just getting praise; we begin to see the power of connecting. To add value to others one must first value others.
To be successful in life we must learn to work with and through others. One person working alone can not accomplish a must. It’s important to note that no matter how much work we can do or engage in, it is impossible to advance in life without others. This requires us to learn to see the value that others process.
If you are a business salesperson, knowing your product is not enough, nor is knowing your business. The most important thing that you can do to help improve your business is to build a connection with your clients. That can only be achieved by listening to your customers and connecting with them on a higher level that builds value. The value also must be genuine, people can tell if you don’t care about them.
The final reason why people put too much emphasis on themselves and not others is they are insecure. The underlying reason for immaturity and egocentric behavior in speakers can be traced back to insecurity. When a speaker is insecure he would seek approval from his audience, and the more he wants to seek approval from them the more he becomes engrossed in himself. And how he can impress others. As a result, he is less likely to meet the needs of his audience. What a negative cycle this creates especially when the speaker doesn’t receive the attention that they crave.
How can a person build confidence in what they are saying? Well, the first thing that they can do is learn their audience. This is key to building confidence. You see when a speaker knows what the audience needs he will know what needs to be said, and it would be less likely that what he says will be less about himself and more about the people.
Next, keep the focus on the needs of the people that he wants to connect with. Suppose a leader wants to get his new team buy-in on a project. If the leader begins to focus on his needs and wants the likelihood that the team will be on board with what needs to be done less than fair. The reason for this is because the focus was on what the manager wanted not the team. However let’s say the leader surveyed the new team and looked at how he can connect what they want with what needs to be done, then the team will be more in step with what the manager wants from them.