The Four Barriers to Connection – The Double Curse of Knowledge

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John Maxwell says that “connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.”IMG_7296

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 wrapping up a short series on the four barriers to connection.

 

The Barrier:

The fourth and final barrier is called the double curse of knowledge. Barrier number three was about when you are wrong; barrier number four is about when you are right.

Many times we are so familiar with our topic that everything seems obvious to us, but to people less familiar, there might be large gaps of understanding when we try to explain our ideas or our position.

In the book Real Influence, authors Mark Goulston and John Ullmen describe this barrier as “it isn’t just about them not getting you. It’s also about you not getting them” (p. 31).

They say “the best influencers… understand that the double curse of knowledge is in play in all of their interactions. These people realize that it’s all too easy to overestimate their own clarity when they’re communicating, and they are aware that they’re not always getting the full message when other people are trying to get through. It’s this knowledge that saves them from appearing arrogant and condescending when people just don’t get it.”

A Personal Story:

A few years ago, had a student who was extremely resistant to feedback, or even doing the assignments as they were assigned. For six months, the faculty struggled to connect with the student and to convince him to cooperate by doing the assignments as required.

Finally, during the last couple months of the program, I had him as my student in a writing class. Each week he was required to submit a short assignment on a specific topic, but week after week he submitted something completely different.

Finally it got to the point where he was in danger of failing not only my class but the entire eight month program.  I sat down with him to convince him to complete his assignments so that he could pass the class.  During our conversation, it came out that he was trying to prepare an article for publication, and he would really rather have feedback and editing on that particular article rather than on the assignments that he was required to complete.

Once I understood his perspective, what his priorities were, I was able to propose a solution that he found acceptable. After our meeting, he completed all of his assignments as expected and was able to complete the program successfully.

The Solution:

The solution to the double curse of knowledge is to keep aware of your audience, to do comprehension checks regularly, and to not make assumptions about their background knowledge.

In his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect, John Maxwell describes five connecting principles and five connecting practices.   One of the connecting practices is that connectors do the difficult work of keeping it simple. John Maxwell gives five ways connectors can do this:

  • Talk to people, not above them
  • Get to the point
  • Say it over and over and over and over again
  • Say it clearLy
  • Say less

By using these five strategies, you can be more certain that your audience, whether it’s one person or many, is getting the message you intend to convey. In fact, I would venture that the larger your audience, the more important each of the strategies becomes.

 

If you would like to increase your connection skills, I would love to partner with you.  A mastermind group* centered around the book Everyone Communicates Few Connect is starting soon.  I invite you to join with like-minded individuals as we work together to take our connecting skills – and our influence – to a new level.

More information on the Everyone Communicates Few Connect mastermind group*

* “Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills.”  (quote from The Success Alliance)

“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 second barrier: The Habit Handicap

The third barrier: Error Blindness

 

 

The Four Barriers to Connection – Error Blindness

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John Maxwell says that “connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.”IMG_7291

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:

Barrier number three is error blindness.

How does it feel to be wrong? This is the question posed by Kathryn Schulz in her TED Talk On Being Wrong.  Most people answer “bad,” “not good,” “embarrassing,” “uncomfortable.” However, Ms. Schulz points out that those are answers to a different question – what does it feel like to realize you are wrong?

It is extremely rare that someone is intentionally wrong!  Ms. Schulz emphasizes that being wrong feels like being right.  This is error blindness.

When we are wrong but think someone else “just isn’t getting it,” we will make one of three assumptions:

  • the ignorance assumption – they just don’t understand so I have to explain it again;
  • the idiocy assumption – they’re kind of stupid, so I have to explain it again; or
  • the evil assumption – they get it, they’re just making life difficult for me.

Anytime we make these assumptions, whether we are in the right or not, it interferes with our ability to connect with the people we are interacting with.

A Personal Story:

I work hard to develop a connection with my students. I know that working with adults, if they don’t trust you, they won’t follow your instruction and therefore not succeed or grow to their potential.  I know I can’t please everyone, but for about 90% of my students I am able to connect with them.

One year I had a student who was very resistant to my feedback, very resistant to my teaching and coaching. Because I know I put a lot of effort into connecting with my students, I assumed the problem was on her end. I thought that maybe she just didn’t connect with my personality and teaching style.

However, through indirect methods, I learned that she had gotten the impression that I disliked her personally. When I heard this, I was shocked.  At that point, I had a choice, whether to believe what I was hearing and act on it or to continue assuming I was right.

Fortunately, I accepted the feedback and took deliberate steps to correct the misconception and to build a better relationship with that particular student. As a result, she became more open to feedback and coaching, and was able to complete the program successfully.

The Solution:

In order to escape from error blindness, we must seek to connect on common ground.

In his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect, John Maxwell describes five connecting principles and five connecting practices.  One of the practices is that connectors connect on common ground. He John Maxwell give several ways in which people can cultivate a mindset of common ground

  • Availability – spend time with others
  • Listening – understand the other’s perspective
  • Questions – be interested in others
  • Thoughtfulness – think of others and thank them
  • Openness – let people in
  • Likability – care about people
  • Humility – think of yourself less to think of others more
  • Adaptability – move from my world to theirs

As we practice these elements and establish a common ground, you’ll find that you are less likely to fall into error blindness because you’ll be open to other people’s ideas to begin with.

 

If you would like to increase your connection skills, I would love to partner with you.  A mastermind group* centered around the book Everyone Communicates Few Connect is starting soon.  I invite you to join with like-minded individuals as we work together to take our connecting skills – and our influence – to a new level.

More information on the Everyone Communicates Few Connect mastermind group*

* “Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills.”  (quote from The Success Alliance)

Kathryn Schulz: On Being Wrong

“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 second barrier: The Habit Handicap

The fourth barrier: The Double Curse of Knowledge

 

 

The Four Barriers to Connection – The Habit Handicap

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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.

 

If you would like to increase your connection skills, I would love to partner with you.  A mastermind group* centered around the book Everyone Communicates Few Connect is starting soon.  I invite you to join with like-minded individuals as we work together to take our connecting skills – and our influence – to a new level.

More information on the Everyone Communicates Few Connect mastermind group*

* “Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills.”  (quote from The Success Alliance)

“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

The Four Barriers to Connection – The Fight or Flight Response

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

IMG_6651If 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 starting a short series on the four barriers to connection.

The Barrier:

The first barrier is the fight or flight response. Most of us are aware that when we are under stress our body reacts in very primitive ways. This is the fight or flight response: “you want to either escape from the people who are upsetting you or hurt them” (Real Influence p. 20).

When you’re under stress and you fall into the fight or flight, it becomes impossible to connect with the people you’re interacting with. As Dr. Goulston and Dr. Ullmen say, your nervous system “doesn’t know the difference between a tyrannosaurus and a tyrannical boss.”

A Personal Story:

I experienced this recently when I asked a friend for some feedback on a project that didn’t turn out as I had intended. This particular friend had watched me go through the process, and I thought he would have some great insights that would help me to do better on similar projects in the future.

When I got his feedback, however, I did not react so well. His initial observation wasn’t anything I was expecting, and I definitely went into the flight or fight response. As a result, I did great damage to our friendship, and even today it is still in the recovery phase.

As I have reflected on this particular situation, I have come to realize that I frequently respond to this particular friend in a fight or flight response, especially when we communicate by email. As a result, I have set myself a requirement that anytime he says or does something that upsets me, I will wait 48 hours before I respond. This way I give myself time to get out of the fight or flight mode and time to respond in a more rational, calm, and connective way.

The Solution:

The solution to breaking the fight or flight response is to focus on the other person’s feelings.

In his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect, John Maxwell describes five connecting principles and five connecting practices.  One of the five connecting principles is that “connecting is all about others.”  He lists three questions that people are always asking when they’re interacting with you:

  1. Do you care for me?
  2. Can you help me?
  3. Can I trust you?

Stepping back and taking a moment to identify these three questions and how the other person might be trying to answer them can help you break out of the fight or flight cycle.

 

If you would like to increase your connection skills, I would love to partner with you.  A mastermind group* centered around the book Everyone Communicates Few Connect is starting soon.  I invite you to join with like-minded individuals as we work together to take our connecting skills – and our influence – to a new level.

More information on the Everyone Communicates Few Connect mastermind group*

* “Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills.”  (quote from The Success Alliance)

“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 second barrier: The Habit Handicap

The third barrier: Error Blindness

The fourth barrier: The Double Curse of Knowledge

Intentional Connection – A Path to Influence

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A few years ago, I had great difficulty in managing my class.  There were two students in particular who were very resistant to my instruction and feedback, and I found myself growing more and more frustrated working with them. IMG_7225

Finally, at one point, through indirect channels, I learned that both students had gotten the impression that didn’t like them on a personal level, and this perception undermined any influence I might have had with them.

In order to create successful outcomes for them and for me, I had to put forth great effort to connect with them individually.  This included apologizing for giving the impression – intentional or not – that I didn’t value them as individuals.  It also entailed listening to their perspectives and understanding where they were coming from.  Further, I had to be quite explicit in stating what I saw as their strengths and their bright future prospects.  Because of my efforts and their responsiveness, both were able to successfully complete the program and go on to further personal and professional accomplishments.

I have the great fortune to teach in a program with small class sizes, typically working with ten students at a time.  Of those ten, eight or nine will be naturally drawn to my personality and teaching style.  John Maxwell’s Law of Magnetism states that “who you are is who you attract.”  This creates a connection with most of my students without much effort on my part.

Of course, over the years I have also learned to do a few things to encourage this connection, especially talking about what I consider “parallel experiences”; while I may not relate to each student’s situation, from day one, I emphasize stories of my own language learning and overseas life experience, things I share in common with all of my students.

However, what about those who don’t naturally connect?

I am learning to be more intentional about meeting those students where they are – understanding their perspective and motivations, their goals and aspirations.  In past years, I would do this as a response to a crisis.  Sometimes I find students don’t relate to my personality, and other times they have different leadership experience and skills that make them resistant to my feedback.

Whatever the reason for the disconnect, as the instructor, and therefore leader, I have to be intentional about connecting with all students.  I do this by focusing on the student and his/ her goals as well as explicitly expressing what I see as his/her strengths.  I also paint a picture for each of my students of what I see them achieving.

If you feel like you don’t have the influence in your life that you need, it may be time to learn to connect at a higher level.  This has been the case for me.  I have found the connecting principles and practices described by John Maxwell in his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect to be powerful tools for connecting with not only my students but also with others in my life.

John Maxwell says that “connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increase your influence with them.”  Next week, I will start leading a “mastermind group”* through this book with the aim of helping people grow in their connecting skills.  I would love to include you in the group!

 

More information on the Everyone Communicates Few Connect mastermind group

* “Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills.”  (quote from The Success Alliance)

A Connective Approach to Influence

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In my years of teaching, I have learned some hard lessons in effective leadership, especially when many of my students are strong leaders in their own right.  This week I want to share some of my insights, one of the key lessons I’ve learned that has really helped me to be more effective.

You can learn more of my thoughts on The Power of Connective Listening from a previous article.

You can read about some of my specific experiences with connecting with students in my articles on The Power of Gentleness, Persuasion through Selflessness, and A Well Connected Life.

Building Trust:  The Linchpin of Influence

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A few years ago, I lost the trust of my students.  IMG_6954

I had made a few bad decisions, and about two-thirds through the program the situation reached a crisis point.  I had to make great efforts (and to humble myself) in order to sufficiently regain their trust so that I could coach them through their final projects.

When I lost their trust, their success was jeopardized.

Trust is the linchpin of relationships and the one element that makes lasting connected influence possible.  Professor Stuart Diamond, in his book Getting More, says, “Trust is something that develops slowly, over time.  It is an emotional commitment to one another based on mutual respect, ethics, and good feeling.”  Trust is a characteristic of relationships that are in it for the long haul, whether they are interpersonal, professional, or communal relationships.

Starting from Scratch

How can you build trust to begin with? First, understand that building trust will not happen quickly.  While some people are naturally trusting, most people living in the modern world are a bit skeptical of anyone they’ve not known very long.

IMG_6956Next, I think the focus should be to establish a personal connection to the person or group you are wanting to build trust with.  In so doing, you have the opportunity to build a track record of keeping the other person’s interests in mind when interacting.

In describing the Law of Connection from The 21 Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell says that “the heart comes before the head.” You must first show that you are truly interested in the person and what is important to that person.  This can best be accomplished through connected listening.

Establishing a connection will get you an opportunity; character will take you the rest of the way.

In addition to building connections with people, you must also demonstrate a strong moral character in order to gain and maintain trust with people.  John Maxwell sees character as the foundation for trust; he says that “character makes trust possible” by demonstrating consistency of results, releasing the potential of others, and earning the respect of others.

The importance of character is so great that I will have to address it more fully in a later post.

Repairing the Breach

How can you recover once trust has been lost?  This is much more difficult, but it is possible.  The first step is to admit your mistakes.  Everyone knows you made a mistake, so you lose nothing from owning it, and you gain credibility when you do.  It does require a bit of humility, but if you can get past your pride, you may find yourself with a second chance.

John Maxwell compares trust to change in your pocket – good decisions increase the change in your pocket, while bad decisions decrease the change in your pocket.  As long as you have some change (i.e. trust) remaining, you can likely recover.  The consistency, potential, and respect that are reflected in your character must shine through if you are to regain lost trust.

 

I learned a hard lesson a few years ago when I lost and later regained the trust of my students.  As a result, in the past few years I have been more intentional about connecting with my students and guarding the trust I have with them in order to more effectively guide them into becoming better communicators themselves.  My efforts have been rewarded by seeing them exceed my expectations and achieve both personal and professional success.

 

Links and Resources:

An article from Success Magazine on building trust