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Simple words that stopped me in my tracks

I read something today that stopped me in my tracks. EVERYONE COMMUNICATES, FEW CONNECT.

I couldn’t agree more.

This quote comes from John C. Maxwell, an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author. On a late Wednesday afternoon, that statement made me jump on my computer and do some more digging and I found his book of the same title. After a few more searches, I found John’s speakers academy and more information on his philosophies about communicating and connecting with an audience of one or one thousand. I find it fascinating that someone could so succinctly put into words something that I have felt for a very long time. Everyone certainly does communicate, but few ever make connections from their efforts and this made me think of a few other things about the people we meet. Every relationship we have (or don’t have) is the result of the energy we put into that relationship. Make someone feel understood, engaged and more energized AFTER you’ve spoken with them, and dollars to donuts, you’ll have another conversation, and another, and another. As my Grandma Alice used to say, “Go where life soars you, not sores you.” People gravitate to other people and situations that make them feel good. Good about themselves, good about others and optimistic about outcomes. Chronic complaining, negativity and low-energy people are tolerated, but rarely enjoyed or referred.

Recently, I’ve watched and rewatched a dozen or so YouTube videos featuring Simon Sinek, a British/American author, motivational speaker, and marketing consultant, best known for creating a concept called “Start with Why”, and he shared some very interesting insight on how cell phones make people feel. He challenged that while asking someone how they are doing, with cell phone in hand, you will appear much less interested than if you asked the question, placed your cell phone in your pocket, and then waited for the answer. “I feel like your number one priority”, said no one who sat across from you and your cell phone at a diner. So how do we make people feel important and build bonds?

Aside from in person meetings and phone calls, which have traditionally been good ways to communicate and build connections, today, we seem to have no shortage of ways to virtually communicate – by text, instant messaging, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, snapchat, and email.

But, can these platforms strengthen the bonds that connect us? Indeed, you might feel that sharing your relationship status, favorite motivational quote, pet peeve and what you ate for dinner last night on social media is connecting you with the outside world, but in this one-way communication, where is the interaction that builds the real connection? I’m not saying that you are completely unable to build a connection with the help of social media as all connection does not have to be face to face. Sure, it helps, but a relationship can grow, and grow strong virtually when you give it the right attention.

For example, I have a marketing business and occasionally I need a graphic designer. I once worked with a company that had hired one and I really admired his work. When a new project came up, I called him and told him how I felt about his previous work and asked if he would be interested in working with me.

We worked on that project, then another, then another, and I refer him highly to anyone who wants a top-notch designer with an attention to detail that shows he cares about your work the way that you do. Correction sometimes even more than you do. He has a personal sense of pride and fulfillment in his work and it shows. I can send him something on a Friday afternoon, and often, he will get back to me over the weekend, to check my deadline, or to ask questions so he will be prepared to start on Monday, or sometimes he sends me a first draft.

However, our relationship is a two-way street. For my part? I usually include a timeframe when a project is pressing (or not) when I send him the initial e-mail. I make note that even though I am sending on a Friday that the work can wait until next week. And, if he does send me something over the weekend, I make sure that I look at it as soon as I possibly can and respond back with the information or feedback he needs to move forward. He is motivated by a job well done, and his own client’s satisfaction. This works for me, as I have the same motivations. Here, is our common ground and where we started and now continue our five plus year virtual relationship. I have never met him in person and have spoken to him a handful of times in relation to the number of emails we’ve had go back and forth. We have communicated often and well, but our real tie is the connection we have to a mutual respect for our work and the people we do it for. I challenge you to think about the people that you work with and that are part of your team every day. Are you doing all that you can to make connections with them? Do you provide feedback on their efforts, do you care about what their goals are, or the things that are affecting them? Do you ask them for their opinions? Do you really take time to listen without making them feel they are taking up yours? I think our primary role as human beings is to be in service to each other. If we get up every day and connect with the people in our lives, let’s start by asking ourselves this question. How can I connect with this person to make their day easier, better or more fulfilling? If you do, I’m certain you will notice that yours will be too.

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