By: Lisa Frank
Many of us may think we’re good at communication, but what we really mean is that communication is easy when we know the person; when there’s no agenda (such as regarding them as potential customers, clients, or program participants); no deadline for filling a program, conference, or volunteer position; or no time constraint for the conversation.
When I was young (and this may still be true), I was incredibly shy about talking to people I didn’t know. But, if the person was somehow connected to or introduced through one of my siblings, I was immediately open, playful, and enthusiastic; they received the full dose of the real “me.” As my sister has remarked, “You bring a different kind of energy!” What I now realize is John Maxwell’s communication practice, “Connectors Connect on Common Ground,” from his book, “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect,” was at work, lending comfort and familiarity even if the person and I had never before met.
A number of months ago, I met Georgiana Kovell, founder of Millions of Women Strong (MOWS), a group for female business owners and entrepreneurs who strive to achieve success on their own terms through networking, collaboration, and relationship building. After speaking with Georgiana for 15 minutes, I was ready to sign up no matter what she was leading or teaching. Why was that? Georgiana, whether consciously or not, utilized many of the principles and practices of John Maxwell’s book, those that answer the age-old questions: Do you care for me? Can you help me? Can I trust you? A friend had connected Georgiana and me, which lent credibility to Georgiana from the start. She was curious about me and obviously understood the journey of a female entrepreneur. Her message about the MOWS mission was simple and inspiring.
One of the first things I learned from MOWS’ group members was no one likes to be sold to. Rather, we should strive to connect with people, to be more interested in the person we’re talking to than ourselves. “Connecting Is All About Others” is the second principle in John Maxwell’s book. Connection organically expands both our networks, leading to cooperation and collaboration, lifting us all. What I’ve also learned is that communicators initiate. We don’t wait for others to approach us. We walk up first. We call first. After almost two years of Covid-19, we may be surprised to realize how hesitant we may be to do anything beyond a dm or text! And who even has phone numbers for anyone they’ve met in the last eighteen months? As the pandemic seems to worsen again, reaching out is more important than ever.
We may think communication is no problem for us, that we articulate our thoughts clearly in written and verbal forms. How many of you believe you’ve clearly stated information, a vision, or instructions, only to discover by the other person’s response or actions that what was heard, inferred, or understood was not at all what you intended? What went wrong? Where was the disconnect?
It can be both eye-opening and liberating to discover your communication style. Your propensity for precision, focus on results, willingness to do anything for the team, or curiosity to know everyone’s story may not be shared. Or that trait of yours that everyone gave you grief for may suddenly be recognized as a strength. When we become aware of our communication styles, results-oriented decision-makers value the facts and information provided by a more reserved colleague. We all win!
I work with people who say “Someday I want this” or “Someday I’ll do that,” and lack the courage to act on their “somedays.” Through the use of traditional and non-traditional tools from DISC assessments to tarot cards, my clients create a life they’re excited to wake up to every day.