According to the Harvard Business Review, “The number one criteria for advancement and promotion for professionals is an ability to communicate effectively.”

In the book ‘Everyone Communicates, Few Connect’, leadership author John C. Maxwell writes as follows “the ability to communicate and connect with others is a major determining factor in reaching your potential”. He defines “connecting” as the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.

Let’s dive into what you can get better at so you can connect more authentically and more deeply.

1. Energy & Attitude

“Attitude will determine your altitude.” -Zig Ziglar, author, salesman, and motivational speaker

Think about the best communicators you know. How many of them are low-energy, and overall dull people? I’d be willing to bet the answer is none. Connecting with people doesn’t just happen without effort. If you want to connect, you must be intentional about it and that always requires focus, conviction, and energy. If you don’t know how to generate energy think about your why and what matters most to you. What’s the driver behind your work? Family, legacy, power, service to the world… get clear on that.

Don’t conflate being high energy with being extroverted. Some of the most influential CEOs are introverted. At the end of the day, they are reserved people but when they do connect with an individual or a group they are focused on the intention of connection.

This applies to business owners as well as salespeople, managers, or anyone that needs to sell ideas and influence groups.

Being intentional means you are upfront about what you want and how you benefit. That way others are not left wondering what your motives are. When you tell them directly what your motives are they can trust you more easily. It takes the doubts out of their mind.

Here are five observations about connecting.

  1. Connecting requires initiative. You have to be confident enough to go first as well as provide value first. Most people recognize the value of initiative: taking action and having ambition, and they will readily admit that taking initiative is important in new or existing relationships, but many people still don’t do it. They wait for the other person to make the first move because that’s psychologically easier for them. But you are a leader, so you don’t operate that way.

  2. Connecting requires clarity. Be prepared. Develop yourself into the best you can be. Do some research on the people you will be meeting and speaking to. Try and get a sense of what their issues and daily struggles are. What do they care about?

  3. Connecting requires patience. If you want to get to know someone and subsequently lead them you must be willing to invest in the connection and be patient. It can take time for others to open up and share what matters to them. Being vulnerable and open first will help this happen naturally.

  4. Connecting requires selflessness. In life, there are givers and there are takers. Everyone prefers to be around givers. Being a giver can require an extra effort, but it’s how win-wins are made.

  5. Connecting requires stamina. Find out what energizes you, and take time for it. Then you will have reserves to draw on when needed. No audience arrives at an event expecting to provide energy to the speaker. People come expecting to receive, not to give. If you are the speaker, keep that in mind. Confidence, passion, and positivity all provide what people are looking for. The more energy you bring, the better your chances of connecting.

2. Let Others Know Who You Know

Connecting is a skill that can be mastered. You must learn to connect with others by making the most of whatever skills and experience you have and building upon them. There are a handful of factors that great communicators draw on that cause people to pause and pay attention.

First is relationships, let others know who you know. One of the quickest ways to gain credibility is to borrow it from someone who already has it. Chris Rood, who just guest spoke on the Level Up Mastermind recently, gained his wider audience through Grant Cardone and his 10X platform. Grant liked what he was doing with wholesaling real estate so he showcased Chris on his platform as his wholesaling real estate expert.

That leads me to what you know. Share your expertise that can help others advance. People will listen to someone who can communicate something of value, something that will help them. If you have an area of expertise and share it generously with others, people will continue to listen. Gary Vaynerchuk attributes his online audience size to simply giving away valuable entrepreneurship advice and perspective. He leans on the side of not holding anything back and giving away his most valuable insights.

Thirdly, are your successes and what you have done. People want to be successful and will seek out people who can help them become successful. If you are successful, people will want to listen to you and join the masterminds and networks you are a part of.

3. Find Common Ground

If I had to pick the first rule of communication, the practice above all others that opens the door to authentic connection with others, it would be to look for common ground.

People who know how to connect are always searching for common ground. They build upon agreements, not disagreements. Yet people often neglect to find it.

Sometimes people assume they already know who others are, what they know, feel, or want. Once you put someone in a box and label them, it becomes difficult to truly connect with them. At that point, you stop listening and you miss key information that would otherwise help you to find common ground with them.

4. Servant Leadership & Humility

“It’s about them, not about me.”

It’s very easy to let it be about yourself. How am I doing? How do I look today? How’s my hair? Was well was I explaining?

Making it about others, such as how can I get to know them better? How can I encourage, bless, or add value to them? What do they need or want? What are their struggles? What are their greatest deltas for change?

Making it less about yourself, and more about them will come through to them. They will see you have an honest desire to connect and enrich.

Most communication is not about what you are saying. It’s about your body language and intention. How you say what you say, and your simultaneous body language will tell your audience everything they need to know.

In closing, to repeat Maxwell’s overarching point, the ability to communicate and connect is the determining factor in reaching your potential. Put these principles into action and watch your sphere of influence continue to grow, bless, and prosper yourself and others.