If you want to win at home, in the workplace and just about anywhere else in today’s world, you better know how to connect with others.  If you struggle in this area, success is almost always going to be an uphill battle for you.  Master this technique, and doors of achievement and fulfillment will just seem to open up for you.

For the last couple of posts, I’ve been sharing some ideas on the Three Questions.  These are the questions that you may not hear someone audibly asking you, but subconsciously they are.  Learn to anticipate and address these questions, and you connect.

So far we’ve addressed Question #1 – “Can I Trust You?”  If you missed the earlier posts, you can find them here:

The Three Questions – Part One

The Three Questions – Part Two

Now, let’s move on to Question #2.


Question #2: “Do You Understand Me?”

Everyone close to you is silently (and most likely, subconsciously) asking you this question.  If you are in a leadership role, your team members are asking.  If you’re on a sales call, your prospect is asking.  And if you have teenagers in your home, I guarantee you that they are asking.

The bottom line is that we all want to be understood.  We all want to feel like we hold value and that we are being listened to.  Think back to when you were in your teens or early twenties.  Regardless of your age today, I’m willing to bet that it won’t take long for you to fondly remember a key person or two that really had a lasting positive impact in your life.  Maybe it was a high school teacher.  Maybe it was a favorite aunt or uncle or grandparent.  Perhaps it was a youth group leader or camp counselor.  Do you have someone like that in mind?  I know I do.

Why do they hold such value in our memories?  Chances are you remember those people from your past so clearly because at the time you thought, “This person really understands me.  They know what I’m going through.  They get it.” You felt valued, listened to, important.  You felt understood.

understand me web small

The ability to understand others is important enough that Stephen R. Covey recognized it as one of the primary habits of successful people in his bestselling work, The 7 habits of Highly Effective People.  Habit #5 simply says, “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.”  As I mentioned previously, Covey noted brilliantly that “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  Understanding takes a whole lot of listening and very little talking.  What are the best salespeople taught early on?  To ask questions.  A lot of them.  Over and over again.  As they begin to understand and relate to the prospect’s needs, only then do they have the information needed to potentially provide a service and make the sale.

At Integress, we teach something that we call The Seven C’s of Connecting.  The first four “C’s” – compassion, character, commitment and consistency – deal directly with the matter of trust from Question #1.  How can you successfully maneuver through the challenges of understanding from Question #2?  With clarity.

The Seven C’s of Connecting: Clarity

It’s extremely difficult to connect with someone when things are unclear.  We’re just not wired to align ourselves with people or things that we don’t understand.  Environments where there is clear and concise communication are environments that are wired for success.  Team members in the workplace who have been given clearly defined job descriptions and goals often feel like they have been given a road map to succeed.  Children thrive in homes where both boundaries and opportunities for growth are communicated with detail and love.  Marital and other relational conflict is often tempered or absent altogether when both parties feel heard and understood.

The bottom line is that we all want to be understood.  We all want to feel like we hold value and that we are being listened to.

I had my own amusing “lack of clarity” moment a while back.  I was delivering a keynote talk to a community group comprised primarily of stay-at-home moms.  We were discussing how to develop daily habits and routines that could lead to personal growth and enriched lives.  Knowing that I worked from my own home during the day with a then 3-year old myself, one mom asked, “How do you find the time early enough in the day for a morning routine?  What do you do with your kids?  Where am I going to find 20-30 minutes for personal development?  I mean, I have to lock myself in the bathroom for five minutes just to pee!”

I smiled and simply said, “Well, I usually have to beat them up.”

Stunned silence.  Serious gazes.  Not a lot of happy smiling faces right then. It took a second, but I soon realized the reason for the disconnect and quickly backtracked.

“No, no!” I said, “I don’t physically beat them up.  I beat them up out of bedI awaken before them!

Sudden relief, exhales and laughter.  No need to call Child Protection Services and have me hauled off to jail.  The Mommy Mob stayed in their seats and we all had a great laugh.  But it was my lack of clarity that caused the disconnect.

Not every inability to understand has such a comical ending.  Just recently, two women knocked on my front door on a Saturday morning.  Now, we all know there’s pretty much only three reasons why a knock on the door comes early on a Saturday morning:

1.       You’re about to be asked to buy something

2.       You’re about to be asked to donate to a cause

3.       You’re about to find out what faith or religious affiliation they represent

(Incidentally, when I was reviewing this article with my wife Gina, she said, “The only really good knock on the door is a Girl Scout bearing Girl Scout cookies.”  Hard to argue with that logic.)

Wanna guess which category these women fell under?  If you guessed #3, claim your prize.  They were canvassing the neighborhood and sharing their faith.  Now, it should be understood that this doesn’t really bother me.  As a person of faith myself, I’m not offended or slighted by folks doing that.  However, I was honestly surprised by what happened next.

For the next few minutes, I was able to witness one of the worst attempts at connecting whole life is communicating and persuading web smallthat I have seen in some time.  The first woman, barely introducing herself, started in by saying, “We’re here to share with you a misunderstood verse in the Lord’s Prayer.”  Then, without pausing, she went on. And on. And on, without taking a breath or watching me for queues or allowing me to get a word in edgewise.  This woman had something to share and she was on a mission to share it.

To be honest, I wasn’t really listening after that.  As a student of communication and connecting, all I could think was, 

 “What if I was a Buddhist?”

“What if I was a follower of Islam?”

“What if I was an atheist?”

What if I didn’t even know what the Lord’s Prayer WAS?”

Eventually, I politely interrupted the woman and told her that my family and I had a regular church home, but I wished them a successful rest of the day.  At that point, she kind of huffed a bit and said something like, “Well, you should still check out the verse anyway” and then turned and left.

As I closed the door, I thought, “What a missed opportunity.”  These women clearly had no understanding of how to identify with and understand their audience.  They never asked me any questions.  They never attempted to find out who I was and whether or not I had a faith-based background.  They were there to be understood, not seeking to understand.  In that mode, they had lost the powerful ability to connect.  And unless they somehow found the ability to do so, they were in for a very long day in the neighborhood.

So ask the questions.  Talk less, and listen more.  Then ask another round of questions.  Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.  If you can master this, you’ll connect with others easily.

Next week we’ll conclude with Question #3 of the Three Questions.  In the meantime, do you have any stories or insights that have brought you success in connecting with others?  When have you misunderstood someone or have been misunderstood due to a lack of clarity?  Please comment below and tell us!

Dale Marcouillier founded Integress Solutions in 2011 out of a desire to share basic success principles with others.  To find out how Dale can inspire and motivate your team or group with a practical and no-nonsense message, email him directly at dale@myintegress.com.