The Power of Connection – Part 3

Several years ago, while living in southwest China, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of local Chinese people. It was a mixed group. There were families with children present, and men and women from different backgrounds. Another important part of the mix was that only about a third of the people spoke English and I didn’t speak Mandarin, so I had to speak through an interpreter. I had never done that before.

The whole process was fun and interesting. When you’re speaking, you look for clues to let you know whether you’re connecting with the audience. A couple of times I said something funny. That’s when I knew for sure which members of the audience spoke English. They laughed immediately. The others didn’t laugh until the interpreter finished translating what I’d said. A good reaction, but the delay took some getting used to.

After the event was over, the interpreter came to me and confessed she had been nervous a first. She hadn’t been interpreting for very long and wasn’t sure how it was going to go. She said, “I’m so glad you have experience speaking through an interpreter. It made is so much easier for me.” It was my turn to confess. When I told her that was my first time, she expresses surprise. I asked her what made it easier for her. She said, “You kept your words and sentences simple and you paused appropriately to give me time to translate.”

Practices of Connection

In my last two posts, I mentioned Principles of Connection. Namely, to connect you must value people, and to connect goes beyond words. This week and next week, I want to talk about two practices of connection, how it works. this week – Connection happens when we keep it simple. That’s not as simple as it sounds. Steve Jobs said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Here are some tips for keeping things simple:

  1. Talk to people, not above them – I once had a colleague who loved words. I get it, I love words, too. He loved to expand his vocabulary and was very intelligent. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem for this person was that when he talked to his employees, he used his vocabulary and came across as condescending. Whether you use big words or industry jargon or just love the acronyms of your industry, your communication won’t be connection unless it’s aimed at your listeners heart not just their head.
  2. Get to the point – Connectors don’t fly around and around the airport before landing the plane. It’s a good idea to beat the listener to the question, “What’s the point?” If they are asking “What’s the point” before you get to the point, you’re not connecting.
  3. Say it clearly – make sure you understand what you’re trying to say before you try to say it. The old saying, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with … (you know the rest)” doesn’t apply when you’re trying to connect with people. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, pointed out, “Insecure managers create complexity. Frightened, nervous managers use thick, convoluted planning books and busy slides filled with everything they’ve known since childhood.” Clarity wins the day for connecting.
  4. Say less – enough said!

Landing the Plane

A good rule of thumb for keeping it simple is to ask the question,”Can people repeat to someone else what i just said to them?”

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