The Four Barriers to Connection – The Habit Handicap


By Tasha M. Troy

John Maxwell says that “connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way thatIMG_7295 increases your influence with them.”

If this is the case, it really makes sense for us to learn how to connect better in order to have greater influence with the people around us. Today I’m continuing a short series on the four barriers to connection.

The Barrier:

The second barrier is called the habit handicap. The first post in the series talked about the fight or flight response, which is a common response when we are under stress. If we don’t fall into the fight or flight response, we are very likely to fall into the habit handicap.

When we are deeply stressed we often go to our comfort zone, focusing on habits and behaviors that have worked for us in the past. Unfortunately, “our old patterns rarely fit our current circumstances” (Real Influence p. 22).

One of my favorite quotes by Einstein is his definition of insanity. He says insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

A Personal Story:

This habit is very easy to fall into. When I first started teaching, I worked with international students who were college aged and were preparing to study university courses in the United States. As a young teacher, I related to these students very well, and I learned very quickly how to connect with them.

When I first moved to South Korea to continue teaching English, I assumed that I knew how to connect with my students. However, my first year I was teaching children, not young adults. My focus on content and grammar did not go over so well, and I was not able to connect well with my students.

My second teaching position in South Korea was once again working with college-aged young adults, and I believed that I was back in my comfort zone. However, once again I failed to connect with my students because I assumed the students in Korea were the same as the students in the United States.  I learned the hard way that there are some key differences:

  • Teaching a group of students who all speak the same language is quite different from teaching students from diverse national and language backgrounds.
  • The Korean students have unique characteristics and shared experiences that have to be taken into consideration in the classroom, considerations that I was not aware of in the beginning.

By the time I moved to my third teaching position in South Korea, teaching business English to mid-career professionals, I had learned not to make assumptions, not to fall into the habits that I had developed in my first few years of teaching, and to focus instead on the needs and characteristics of my current students.

The Solution:

Anytime we want to break a habit, we have to put out the energy and the effort to make the necessary changes.

In his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect, John Maxwell describes five connecting principles and five connecting practices.  One of the connecting principles is that “connecting requires energy.”  He says that “connecting with other people doesn’t just happen on its own. If you want to connect with others, you must be intentional about it. And that always requires energy” (p. 72).

He goes on to describe five proactive ways to use energy in order to connect with others:

  1. Connecting requires initiative
  2. Connecting requires clarity
  3. Connecting requires patience
  4. Connecting requires selflessness
  5. Connecting requires stamina

I have found each of these ways to use energy to be very important tools I can use to connect with my students and others in my life.


Take It Deeper

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions on Fridays.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net


“The Four Traps that Disconnect You” from Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen.  Read my review of Real Influence

The first barrier: The Fight or Flight Response

The third barrier: Error Blindness

The fourth barrier: The Double Curse of Knowledge


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