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“Improving Communication – Part 2”

September 2011

Last month we talked about communication and the interference that we often have from our own thoughts and internal dialogue.  We talked about this from the receiver’s point of view. Often times as the receiver of a communication, we aren’t really listening to the speaker or sender.  Our brains actually think faster than most humans can speak. When this happens your brain may try to fill in the void with its own thoughts which distracts you from listening and staying present.  If you remember from last month’s newsletter, we said that while others talk sometimes our minds think a number of things like:

  1. “They are wrong.”  “They are stupid.”  “What an idiot.”
  2. “I know.”  “I don’t need to keep listening.”
  3. “Ooh, ooh, I have something important to say (so I’m interrupting you).”  “If I just say this…”

These types of thoughts keep you from connecting to the sender so you don’t completely hear their message.

But as the sender, you can also have thoughts going through your mind that are keeping YOU from sending the message properly.

  1. If you are thinking… “I need to impress them.” or “What if I mess up?” what may happen to your message?

    Sometimes you hear thoughts that cause you to pretend or try to impress people. You mind is focusing you on YOU rather than on connecting. Let me ask you a question… are you able to tell when people are trying to impress you or when they aren’t really present? Most people can figure this out pretty easily. When someone is trying to impress you, are you listening to their message? Sometimes we are caught up in wondering why this person isn’t being real. Our mind goes off and starts analyzing why the person is behaving this way. When that happens, you aren’t hearing the message.  In order to make sure you are sending the message properly, you must be real and you must be present. You must focus on the receiver, not you – the sender.

  2. If you are thinking… “I need to make sure that they agree with me.” what may happen to your message?

    This is a good one because it doesn’t sound like a bad thing, right? Here’s why this can get in the way… you may be trying to convince someone of something that they won’t ever agree with. Here’s an example… some people believe in man-made global warming so they will try to get others to conserve energy by making them watch “The Inconvenient Truth” and change all their light bulbs. They may even show piles of research from reputable organizations that prove that the earth is warming at an alarming rate. However, if the receiver doesn’t agree and has an equal pile of data to the contrary, they are not going to be convinced.  Yet, the agreement may not be important at all. Seeking agreement can actually get in the way. Instead, you should focus on the specific behaviors that you’d like…the goals that you want to achieve. For instance, in our example above, if the person who doesn’t agree with the man-made global warming wants to save money on utilities, we may still be able to change their behaviors, right? To make sure that you are sending the message properly, be sure to set your intentions BEFORE communicating. It is possible to disagree and still be working toward the same outcomes.

  3. If you are thinking… “I don’t have much time to talk so just listen.” what may happen to your message?

    This one is really dangerous. You are basically telling the receiver that they aren’t important. Remember that “connection” thing we talked about last time that is so vital to communication. One-way “connections” aren’t really connections.  It’s dumping! No one likes to be dumped on.

Communication is crucial to every human being. In college philosophy, I learned that Descartes said “I think therefore I am.”  I wrote my final paper trying to disprove this.  It was entitled “I communicate therefore I am.”  The human brain needs connections… it needs communication.  It actually thrives on it.

Communication, that is, connecting, helps in every area of life. It isn’t just for leaders, public speakers and politicians.  It’s for all HUMAN BEINGS.  Do you ever need to influence human beings? If so, you must learn how to connect with them better.  I’ve talked about becoming more aware of your own thoughts to do this, but I also want to give you practices that you can start using right away. (From “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” by John C. Maxwell)

Connectors connect on common ground. It’s difficult to find common ground with others when the only person you’re focused on is yourself (and your thoughts)! The good news is that anyone can learn to connect better because connecting is a choice.  Here are some key attributes and traits that you can start working on today.

  1. Availability—“I Will Choose to Spend Time with Others”: Common ground must be discovered, and that takes time.
  2. Listening—“I Will Listen My Way to Common Ground”: ”Listening requires giving up our favorite human pastime— involvement in ourselves and our own self-interest.” – Sonya Hamlin
  3. Questioning—“I Will Be Interested Enough in Others to Ask Questions”: Rather than thinking about what stories you can tell about yourself, think about what questions you can ask about the other person.
  4. Thoughtfulness—“I Will Think of Others and Look for Ways to Thank Them”: Put yourself in their shoes and find small ways to thank them or help them.
  5. Openness—“I Will Let People into My Life”: Connecting requires both parties to be open and to engage. Go ahead, you be the first to be open… it’ll be ok.
  6. Likability—“I Will Care About People”: People like people who like people so… like people! It’s a highly attractive quality to possess, and it causes others to want to connect with you.
  7. Humility—“I Will Think of Myself less So I Can Think of Others More”: Many people have gotten the definition of humility backwards. This doesn’t mean thinking less of your self. It means thinking of your self less.  (Big difference!)
  8. Adaptability—“I Will Move from My World to Theirs”: Anytime you aren’t sure about how to bridge the communication gap, don’t start the process by telling people about yourself. Begin with moving to where they are and seeing things from their perspective.

Whatever you desire and whatever is within you can be put to better use and add more value to the world if you learn to connect with people. You can learn to increase your influence in every situation because connecting is a skill. You can learn to do it better by focusing on your strengths!!

Start practicing one or two of the attributes above until they become a part of your natural thinking process… until they become a habit. It’s all a matter of taking control of your mindset and internal dialogue. When you’ve mastered those new habits, start on a couple of the other attributes.  Soon you’ll be connecting and influencing naturally… people will then say that you are a born leader.  (If they only knew how much work you had to do to become the “overnight success”.  🙂

Make a difference in someone’s life today
by connecting TODAY



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“It’s not enough just to work hard. It’s not enough to do a great job. To be successful, you need to learn how to really communicate with others.”

– John Maxwell

The number one criteria for advancement and promotion for professionals is an ability to communicate effectively.”

Harvard Business Review

‘If I went back to college again, I’d concentrate on two areas: learning to -write and to speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively.”

– Gerald Ford

“When you connect with others, you position yourself to make the most of your skills and talents.

– John Maxwell

“What you are speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you say.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


To connect with people, be yourself, at your best.

– Charlie Wetzel

It’s difficult to find common ground with others when the only person you ‘re focused on is yourself!

John Maxwell

There is a great deal of difference between knowing and understanding. You can know a lot about something and not really understand it.

– Charles F. Kettering


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