When I scroll through my Facebook feed these days, it sometimes seems we’re doomed to division.
Of course, we can all agree that puppies are adorable, cats are silly, and food is delicious. However, you know there are so many issues causing division. And it doesn’t take much to create division, and the gaps between people seem to be widening these days.
Even worse, there are so many who have decided to lash out in anger against any who disagree with them. People are no longer allowed to disagree and discuss differences in opinion and perspective.
With this being the case, is it still possible to connect?
I believe connection is a function of leadership.
“Wait, I’m not in a leadership position, so I can’t connect.” Not true! “Leadership” is not a function of position – we’ve all had bosses who weren’t leaders!
“Um, ok. So what IS leadership?” John Maxwell says that leadership is influence; are there people in your life whom you influence? Friends, family, coworkers – the way you interact with the people around you displays your level of leadership.
So, if “I’m not a leader” is no excuse, how do we connect?
First, understand that connective leadership is not for the faint of heart. If you need to be liked by everyone, you can’t be a leader. Simply stepping out and speaking up means some people will love you and others will misunderstand you or even hate you. Many may question your motives. You have to be confident in who you are and what you believe in order to embark on this connectivity journey.
Second, you have to understand that true connective leaders are others focused, which is to say that they put the needs of others before their own. In this divisive environment, this would mean the need to be heard and understood. So many people these days are so busy broadcasting their message but not feeling heard or understood. There is so much power in simply listening to understand. (ref. Real Influence)
With these two realities in mind, you can follow three simple (but not always easy) steps to begin connecting with the people around you, even when (and especially when) they don’t agree with you.
Step 1: Practice “connective listening,” or listening to understand.
- Do NOT share your own perspective; do NOT defend or respond to what is being shared.
- DO ask clarifying questions; DO summarize back what you’ve heard to ensure understanding.
Step 2: Apply the 101% Principle
John Maxwell says to connect with people, look for the 1% where you agree and give that 100% of your effort. No matter how disparate your positions, you will find something you can agree on. It might simply be a dislike of spinach, but there will be something! This step is essential for building trust.
Step 3: Take the person you want to connect with on a journey to understand your perspective.
The authors of Real Influence call this meeting them in “their there.” You must logically start from the other person’s perspective or you will lose them. Take them step by step until they can see your perspective. They may not agree, but they likely will not think you are insane for holding your position.
It is not likely you will go through all three steps in one conversation. This is likely to be a process. Again, this is not for the faint of heart. Notice – your perspective is the last piece in this process. You have to have a certain humility and a hunger for connection that is stronger than your desire to be heard.
If you would like to learn more about how to connect with others, I will be teaching John Maxwell’s course on Everyone Communicates Few Connect soon. If you would like to receive information about this course, you can sign up for updates by getting my “Guide to Reducing Interpersonal Conflict” (in the left menu bar).