Communication 101

There’s a popular book by John C Maxwell named Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. After reading it, and from my experience in the marketplace, nearly 15 years, I’m convinced that most people are not communicating well, although they think they are. In fact, I would break down all communication into three categories, which I will explain below. I believe that most people never truly make it beyond the first category. My belief is easily supported by the lack of harmony in the workplace, governments, and even in partnerships and marriages. Perhaps the hardest thing in life is to effectively communicate so that others not only understand what you are saying, but can logically and maybe even emotionally connect with what is said and take action. Let’s explore what I believe are the three levels of communication:

SAYING SOMETHING. This is the most basic level of communication. We all say things through speaking, writing, signing or some other form of communication. Unfortunately, much of what we say is not necessarily heard, read, or seen, and much less is fully understood by our intended recipients. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked a manager about some unfinished task or some other issue and was met with the reply, “I told him or her to do it…”. Therein lies the problem—just because something was said, does not mean that the message was understood well and acted upon. I believe most communication falls within this first category—things are said, memos are written, laws are signed, but they are not effectively communicated so that the recipient truly understands the message.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION. This level of communication occurs when a message is properly understood by the intended recipients and can be repeated back essentially verbatim to the person who originated the message. I rarely see this in relationships or companies anymore. We are so distracted by smart devices and screens in our cars, kitchens and even bathrooms that it is difficult to understand what is being communicated to us and even more difficult to understand the messages being conveyed. Moreover, often the message being communicated doesn’t effectively state why the intended recipient should pay attention to the message. Too often we ask people to do things without explaining exactly why it is important that they do it. Without a sense of importance, no message will be effectively communicated.

CONNECTION. This is the ideal in regards to communication. Connection goes beyond just speaking and effectively communicating, it creates an emotional response in the recipient that causes him or her to reflect on what is being said and possibly take action. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Socrates, Winston Churchill, Ayn Rand, Ralph W. Emerson and even Karl Marx and Hitler went beyond speaking to and communicating with people, they all connected with and influenced people on a high level. The ultimate goal of any leader is to connect with people. I believe this is the reason leadership is so difficult. It’s very difficult to actually connect with people on a high level. It’s easy to “say something” or even have your message understood. Connection is hard.

When you are speaking, writing or engaging in any form of communication, it may be useful to ask yourself, “What level of communication am I engaging in?” It could very well be that you think you are connecting with an audience, when in reality you are merely speaking, and what is being said is just as easily being ignored. It’s difficult to connect, especially in our very distracted world but connection is the key to building real relationships and creating massive action. Connection is the ideal when communicating, although it is rarely achieved. My suggestion would be to work on effectively communicating so that your recipients actually understand what you are saying and why you are saying it. Too many words are wasted nowadays. Don’t let your words be wasted as well!

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Be One With Another

Personal connection with another is perhaps the greatest, most fulfilling state we can achieve as humans. The overwhelming desire to share experiences, build empathy, trust and connection with a partner, family and friends is what drives humanity forwards. While most media push stories of violence and conflict via reality TV shows, news programs and dystopian movies, the fact remains that humans are inherently wired to connect with each other, not hate and avoid them. Connection is a human need—a biological imperative.

Many people who have divorced or faced significant struggle with another may argue the importance of connection, but studies show that married couples report a significantly higher level of happiness and fulfillment as opposed to singles. Further studies report that the higher number of strong personal connections you have with others, the happier you are in your life. Humans are social creatures. We need each other to survive. We need each other to make the free market thrive and promote overall prosperity. All humans need to contribute and give beyond themselves to achieve fulfillment. So while it may be that others can diminish our tranquility through conflict, our desire for connection overrides.

Personally, I can say without a doubt that my connection with my wife is truly what gives me the highest level of fulfillment and happiness. I am focused more on her at any given time than I am myself. Everything I do, I do with her and my children in mind. I want to see them happy. I want to see them thrive. I want to share everything with my wife (except illness). My trust and love for her gives me such an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and well-being, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the state that people are supposed to be in the majority of their lives. So while it’s easy to look at the history of humanity and see war, conflict, hatred, prejudice and ignorance—that is nowhere near the whole story. The real story is that humans have connected and conspired with others to create something beyond themselves. Connection is creation.

We all must strive to make a personal connection with others. To share our life experiences and stories so they may live on beyond our own lives is the real story of humanity. Yes, you must take care of yourself. In fact you owe it to yourself and others to be the best you can be, but that is not what creates happiness. Being a better you is important solely for sharing with and helping others. Working on yourself is fine, but it’s only useful if you can give.

So go out and connect. Give beyond yourself. Create an unshakable bond with someone. This doesn’t mean being naive. People can and certainly will harm you in life. You must protect yourself and be guarded when necessary. Be prepared for pain. However, do not obsess about the dark qualities of interaction with others. And don’t worry if all your connections or friendships don’t work out. Not all of them will. Just focus on the future connections you will make. Focus on the love you give and others have given you. Remember above all, whatever you focus on, you find. Focus on being closer to others. It’s the only thing that will bring you true happiness.

In Health,

Sean