I recently participated in an event where the facilitator, instead of going around the room and asking each person to introduce themselves, asked each person to interview the person seated next to them and be prepared to introduce them to the rest of the group—nothing like starting an event with some anxiety and tension. What I observed about myself and others in the room had an immediate and lasting impact on me.
Connecting with Others or Having Others Connect with You
I observed how an exercise that would have me thinking about me and how I can make me seem incredibly interesting and important to the rest of the group, became an exercise about me thinking about you and making you seem interesting and important. If leadership is influence and you want to increase your influence with others, stop talking about yourself and start talking about them.
When the pressure was on, and I knew I would be standing up to introduce this person to the class, getting to know them quickly took on a very intentional dynamic. There were questions I needed to ask; there were answers I needed to listen closely to; there were notes I needed to take and some follow-up questions I would ask for clarity. Compare this to what might typically happen when I hope to connect with people on my team where I am more likely to help you connect with me than me connect with you. That sounds like a cute play on words, but it had significant differences in execution.
Winning Friends and Influencing People
When I was 15 years old, my father asked me to read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. And by “ask,” I mean demanded. There was very little chance as a 15-year-old I was ever going to pick up a book by some old guy in the business world about making friends. But my dad could be very persuasive, so I read the book. I reported back to my dad about the book. I loved the book; it changed my life.
What I learned that my dad already knew is that all of life is about relationships. All of life is about people. No matter what you do or where you do it, there will be people involved in the beginning, the middle, and the end. Your ability to connect, relate, and communicate with people will be the difference-maker in every endeavor you undertake.
Paying Value to Others
Some years ago, when I was speaking at an event, I was backstage meeting some of the other featured speakers. One of those speakers from that day still stands out to me, even years after the event. Instead of telling me about himself, he asked questions about me. I laugh even as I write this, now recalling how one of my friends walked up to say hello, and this well-known author and speaker introduces me to my friend. He used everything he had just been learning about me to make me look important to someone else.
Author Denis Waitley once said, “The greatest communication skill is paying value to others.” If you can find a way when connecting with others to communicate their value to them, you will never lack for influence or for friends. People want to be valued.
If you want to connect well with others and increase your level of influence, try these ideas to pay value to others:
- Initiate conversations – Don’t wait for others to engage you. Be friendly. Smile. Start a conversation.
- Ask great questions – The easiest way to stay away from talking too much about yourself.
- Take a genuine interest in others – You don’t need to be under pressure to introduce them to someone else, uncover who they are and what value they bring to the group.
- Be a good listener – The fastest way to show value to another human being is to listen to them. Good listeners can ask great questions to show that they are hearing and trying to understand fully.
- Listen more than you talk – If you are genuinely interested in the other person, this will not be difficult to do.
Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.