Are You Connecting or Just Communicating?

Have you ever been in a meeting or a group setting where you shared an idea and no one really acknowledged what you said, but then a few minutes later someone else brought up the exact same idea and everyone exclaimed “what a great idea!”? This has happened to me. I would get so frustrated and irritated. Why aren’t they listening to me? That’s exactly what I said just a minute ago!

I thought I was communicating clearly. I looked people in the eye, I spoke clearly with a strong voice and good enunciation. I wasn’t using especially large words or complicated vocabulary. Then I finally figured out why this happened to me. I may have been communicating but I was failing to connect with others.

Know your audience. You’ve probably heard the phrase “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” (~ author unknown). The first step in connecting is learning about with whom you are communicating. Who are they? What do they care about? What’s important to them? Too often when we speak, we think it’s all about us – getting our point across. When we speak, we should be thinking about to whom we are speaking and put our message into a context that’s meaningful to them. Because after all, consciously or subconsciously, those to whom we are speaking are assessing us with these 3 thoughts:

Do you care for me? Can you help me? Can I trust you?

The message you send out is much more than your words. What we say accounts for only 7% of what is believed. The way we say it accounts for 38%. What others see accounts for 55% (~ www.elwayresearch.com). More than 90% of the impression we convey has nothing to do with what we say. So, when we communicate, we need to include thought, emotion and action; by relating our topic to something we know, something we feel and something we do.

Be impressed, not impressive. People often think that if they impress others, they will gain influence and importance. If we make it our goal to impress others, we end up being full of ourselves, with big egos. Nothing puts people off more than a know-it-all. So, get over yourself already! The most influential leaders are those who focus on others, not themselves. They ask questions. They listen. They are humble. They know they don’t have all the answers and they are genuinely curious about what others think.

Be present and in the moment. Sometimes we are so focused on what we’re going to say next we miss what others are saying to us right now. Pause. Listen. Really listen. Then pause again and think about what you will say. A thoughtful response or a clarifying question sends the message that you truly are interested, attentive and engaged. Follow these simple steps and you will find yourself genuinely connecting with others, not just communicating.

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