Barriers to Connected Influence in a Connected World

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Sherry Turkle explores the impact of technology use on society.  She speaks about “connection” as being friends or followers on social media and makes a point that we are now missing that deeper connection to each other in real time.

Dr. Turkle makes a couple of points relevant to our discussion of connected influence.

One of the reasons Dr. Turkle gives for our constant need for social media is the feeling we are not listened to.

That feeling that no one is listening to me is very important in our relationships with technology. That’s why it’s so appealing to have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed —so many automatic listeners. 

This highlights the importance, the extreme need for people to start practicing connective listening, at least momentarily setting aside the need to be heard and meeting someone else’s need to be understood.  

Another element of the situation is our deep aversion to quiet and solitude.  I, too, am prone to reach for my phone, check Facebook or Twitter, whenever I have a few minutes of down time.

Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved. And so people try to solve it by connecting. But here, connection is more like a symptom than a cure.”  

Remember, she is talking about the superficial connections we have on social media, not the deep interpersonal connections possible when we listen and understand each other’s stories.

In my opinion, social media “connections” often serve as counterfeits to real connection.  She says, “Solitude is where you find yourself so that you can reach out to other people and form real attachments.”

I would like to leave you with one final thought from Dr. Turkle’s TED Talk:

Human relationships are rich and they’re messy and they’re demanding. And we clean them up with technology. And when we do, one of the things that can happen is that we sacrifice conversation for mere connection. We short-change ourselves.

I challenge you today to stop short-changing yourself and your relationships with the people around you.  Turn off your phones and be fully present for the important moments of your life.

 

Previous Posts on the Connected Influence Model

The Heart of the Matter – Adding Value

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Have you experienced a time when someone went above and beyond the “call of duty”?  Perhaps it was a parent, a teacher, a mentor, or a friend.

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

When I first starting writing this blog last year, it took me a while to find my voice and my style.  At that time, a friend of mine agreed to help me by previewing my articles.  What I didn’t know was that this friend has a background in publishing.  He didn’t just preview, but he gave detailed feedback, pointing out gaps in the flow of information and providing valuable suggestions.  His input helped establish a firm foundation for everything that has followed.  He genuinely did so much more for me than I had anticipated.

My friend demonstrated the final step in the connected influence model, which is “when you’ve done enough … do more.”  If you want to have principled, integrity-based influence in people’s lives, you have to go above and beyond what’s expected; you have to go the “extra mile.”

John Maxwell says that “leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”  That being the case, his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership provides 21 strategies for increasing your influence.  Law #5, the Law of Addition, states that “leaders add value by serving others.”  He says, “I believe the bottom line in leadership isn’t how far we advance ourselves but how far we advance others.  That is achieved by serving others and adding value to their lives” (p. 51).  This is the essence of connected influence.

Connected listening is the starting point of connected influence (or connected leadership).  Once you truly understand another’s point of view, hopes, goals, and challenges, you may be able to move forward together.  Mark Goulston and John Ullmen, in their book Real Influence, draw a connection between “the 3 gets” of step 3 with “the 3 value channels” of step 4:

  • You get “it” –> you can add insight
  • You get “them” –> you can add emotional value
  • You get their path to progress –> you can add practical value

No matter how much you understand, until you help the other person by adding value to them, you are no more than a sympathetic ear.  Don’t get me wrong – one of our greatest needs as humans is to feel heard and understood, so being a sympathetic ear is adding value to someone.  However, in order to take your influence to the next level, you will have to invest in people by pointing them towards solutions.

My challenge to you for this week is to identify one person in your life who you would like to develop greater influence with.  Make a point of asking about that person’s situation and look for opportunities to provide support and creative suggestions.  If you have never done something like this before, you will be amazed by the results.

 

Links and Resources:

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The Journey from “Their There”

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Have you ever felt like you just haven’t connected with someone and wondered why?  I recently experienced a serious disconnect with a friend.

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

She was explaining something that she was very interested in, going into great detail about how her solution would benefit me, too.  However, while her solution is perfect for her and her season of life, it is totally unsuitable for my situation.  I chose to let her talk instead of cutting her short, primarily because I wanted to let her express her enthusiasm.  The sad result, though, was feeling a major disconnect from my friend, which is likely to damage my willingness to be open with her unless I take some deliberate steps to change the situation.

She did not meet me in “my here” when she was trying to influence me.

The third step in the connected influence model is to meet the other person in “their there.”  This step must come after connected listening; because you now understand the other person’s perspective, you can start there and take them on a journey to help them see your perspective.

To define “their there,” Mark Goulston and John Ullmen talk about the “three gets of engage”:

  1. You get “it” – you have taken the time to truly understand their perspective and their unique situation.
  2. You get “them” – you see them for who they are, with all their strengths and weaknesses, hopes and struggles.
  3. You get their path to progress – you understand the steps they can take to move in the direction of their goals, taking into consideration their values and concerns.

To go back to my situation with my friend, it was clear after just a few minutes that she didn’t get “it” – she did not understand my situation and my priorities.  Even though she gets “me,” without “it” she can’t get my path to progress.

In order for our friendship to move forward, I will have to have a conversation with her when we are not rushed for time.  I will have to meet her in “her there” by digging deeper into her situation, then step-by-step I may be able to help her see my perspective more clearly.  If she is ready for that small journey, then perhaps we will still be able to have an open friendship.

 

Links and Resources:

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Watch Your Blind Spot!

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Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Several years ago while I was living in South Korea, I met my parents in Hawaii for a short vacation.  Since I was scheduled to arrive considerably earlier than my family coming from the mainland, my father suggested I pick up the rental car and check out Honolulu, which I thought was an excellent idea.

As I was driving around, I made a last-minute decision to get into a left-turn lane.  When I checked, the lane appeared to be clear.  Suddenly, I heard a “thump!” and realized that there was a motorcyclist there!  Clearly I had failed to check my blind spot.  Fortunately, I didn’t injure the driver, but I was quite shaken by the experience.

We are all familiar with the concept of a blind spot while driving, but very few are familiar with mental blind spots.

Step 2 in Mark Goulston and John Ullmen’s connected influence model is listening past your blind spot.  They define your “blind spot” as the condition of being immersed in your own perspective:

Your brain doesn’t merely have a blind spot when it comes to driving; it also has a blind spot when it comes to influencing.  And like a driver who changes lanes without checking to see what’s in the blind spot, you’re dangerous when you’re blinded by your own point of view. (p. 11)

The primary skill needed is “level 4 listening,” but because I have already written a bit about the importance of connective listening, I will focus here on another necessary, yet often overlooked element: “to influence, be influenceable.”

IMG_5249When I talk to clients and friends about being open-minded and influenceable, I tend to get a bit of push-back.  They say they don’t want to be “so opened minded their brain falls out,” and they express concern that being open to others’ ideas means they will have to compromise their values and principles.

However, I have found Goulston and Ullmen’s explanation to be an excellent way of looking at this so-important element of developing influence with another:

Being influenceable isn’t about giving in, giving up, being weak or soft, being scared, or being any less committed to your principles and to achieving excellent results.  And being influenceable doesn’t mean that you’re not going to disagree.

What being influenceable does mean is that you go into every conversation being willing to believe that you may be partially or totally wrong; that the other person may be partially or completely right; and that even if the other person isn’t right, you will learn something valuable from your interaction.

Being influenceable means being both open-minded and open-hearted.  People tend to open their minds to people who’ve opened their own minds, and to open their hearts to people who permit themselves to be touched.  When you want to strengthen your influence with others who see things differently, being vulnerable is more potent than being impervious.  (p. 108)

If we truly value people in general, we need to first look for the value they bring to any relationship without imposing our own expectations or perspectives on them.  To me, this is the essence of being open-minded.  Even someone I disagree with violently on most things will have something of value to add to my life.  This doesn’t relieve me of responsibility; being influenceable  means we have greater responsibility to evaluate new ideas as they are presented, but it doesn’t mean we dismiss the people who share those ideas.

This week I dare you to open your mind and your heart to truly hear someone else, especially if that someone has dramatically different views than you do.

 

Links and Resources:

Previous posts on this topic

 

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.

A Response to the Events in Ferguson, Missouri

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As I have been following the reactions to the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, regarding the case of Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, my heart has been troubled. In my Facebook news feed, I hear the voices of liberals and conservatives, of Black and White (and Hispanic and Asian); I hear voices calling for peace, respect, and safety, and I hear voices crying out in anger, frustration, and sadness.IMG_0269

It is not my intention to respond to the Grand Jury decision; I know the members of that jury were privy to information that is not available to me, and I have to trust that they made the best decision given the information at their disposal. Neither is it my intention to criticize those who are protesting and calling for change and reform; I see that there are things within our society that are broken, that are not working as we think they should.

It is my intention to use my unique position, situated between people of different races and socio-economic status, to try to bring greater understanding to all sides of the issue and to find a way forward that encourages justice for all. There is more to the story of the social injustices in America, and we as a society need to hear it.

I recently read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a book purportedly about success, which opened my eyes to how our current situation has been made possible when so many middle class Americans aren’t even aware. In the first chapter, Gladwell talks about the American belief in the “self-made man” and the triumph of personal determination and grit, and about how this perception of success is flawed.

In Outliers, I want to convince you that these kinds of personal explanations of success don’t work. People don’t rise from nothing. We do owe something to parentage and patronage. The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievement in ways we cannot begin to imagine. It’s not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t. (Outliers p. 18)

The rest of the book documents these assertions, and if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

IMG_6718I grew up in a middle class White household, which gave me certain privileges that I did not recognize for a long time. As I was growing up, my peers and I were taught not to think in racist terms; we have come to believe that the Civil Rights movement ended all racism and that now we are living in a racial utopia. However, recent events are revealing just how wrong we really are, and we are trying to wrap our minds around a reality we never were aware of. Sadly, many are in denial, but the number of recent incidents, and the protests and riots in Ferguson, should show us that it’s a real issue, not something made up. Privilege is not a bad thing, but it does give us a greater responsibility for righting the wrongs in our society.

Now is not a time for vengeance for all wrongs, real or perceived. Now is not a time to pretend these wrongs are all imagined. Now is not a time for rhetoric and political posturing. Now is not a time to wait for things to “blow over” so we can get back to business as usual.

The time has come for action and change, for the deliberate opening of opportunities to those who have been denied, for whatever reason. It is a time for increasing our awareness and understanding, to practice “connective listening” with those who have long felt unheard. By listening and understanding, we can begin to identify practical steps to heal racial divisions, first in the Church, then in our communities, and finally in our country and beyond.

The Power of Connective Listening

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I recently sat down with a friend for lunch. As we were catching up, I began to feel like I was being interrogated rather than participating in a conversation. I’m not saying my friend was intrusively firing questions at me; she was friendly and cheerful as she asked me about the various situations I’ve been facing. She was even asking some good open-ended questions. However, I ended up leaving the conversation feeling like I hadn’t actually been heard.IMG_6706

I suspect most people understand what it takes to show interest in others – remember what is important to the other person and ask open-ended questions – yet we still fail to connect on the deeper levels that each person craves. How is it that my friend did everything she was supposed to do and still left me feeling unheard?

In an earlier blog post, What if you’re wrong?, I introduced the four levels of listening described in the book Real Influence by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen. The first two levels are generally negative and should not be used if at all possible – avoidance (distracted) listening and defensive (reactive) listening.

The third level, problem-solving listening, is very practical and often effective when facts and reason are paramount. However, according to Goulston and Ullmen, “Level 3 listening, especially when matters are complex or emotionally charged, leaves too much room for misunderstanding” (p. 93).

As I pondered the experience with my friend, I realized that this was the level that she had engaged in. Her questions had me focusing on the facts of my circumstances, not the deeper meaning I am deriving from them or how I feel about them. To an extent, it felt as though she were working her way down a list of topics she had to cover and was less interested in actually hearing what I had to say about the topics.  I have to wonder how often I, too, take this approach in relationships – more often than is good, I suspect.

The highest level of listening, Level 4, is called “connective listening.” This is listening to understand and build rapport; your interest at this level is not even in solving a problem but to get underneath the surface of what the person is sharing. According to Goulston and Ullmen, “It’s listening without an agenda, because you’re not focused on responding or even on helping” (p. 94). Only after fully understanding the situation can solutions be explored.

IMG_6867Listening to another person at this level is a powerful way to build a relationship. Whether someone is simply sharing an experience or is venting, responding by asking for more information affirms the speaker and shows your concern for their feelings. It allows them to release all the negative emotions associated with the situation, and consequently they become better able to listen to you in return, further strengthening the relationship.

As I pondered which Biblical story to reference in relation to connective listening, I settled on one that may at first seem unorthodox – the case of King Solomon judging between two mothers who were both claiming a surviving child. We find the story of Solomon’s demonstration of wisdom in 1 Kings 3:16-28. Every teaching I have ever heard has pointed to Solomon’s divinely-sourced discernment, and I do believe God to be the source of wisdom and discernment.

However, when I read it again recently, I can see this is also a case of connective listening. While it isn’t explicitly stated in the Biblical narrative, I believe that the two women stated their cases in very different styles, and I believe that Solomon was able to hear not only the words of the two women but also their hearts. Can you imagine the tone of voice, the body language, the passion of the true mother when she opens her explanation by saying, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house” (v. 17, emphasis mine)?   Can you hear the coldness and bitterness in the voice of the false mother as she says, “No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours” (v. 22)?

I was further struck by verse 23, in which Solomon simply summarizes the two women’s argument: Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’” This very simple statement indicates that Solomon has practiced connective listening; he has heard what the two women said and understood the situation before making any moves to render a judgment that reveals what I suspect he understood from listening to them state their cases.

I believe that connective listening is a powerful tool. It may have the power to not only improve relationships but also to promote justice and mercy. How much suffering can we alleviate simply by listening with open ears and open hearts to those around us? Who can you practice connective listening with today?

 

Links and Resources:

Bible verses quoted from the English Standard Version (ESV)

YouTube Playlist of interview with Dr. Mark Goulston

Website for Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In

Series of blog posts by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen based on the concepts in Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In

72 Bible verses about listening