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How to Avoid the Disconnection Epidemic

How to Avoid the Disconnection Epidemic

reflection

    Reflection on disconnection

    In 2009 we are indeed a global community infected by disconnection. On many levels and in many ways. And as a planet and as a tribe living on that planet, it’s safe to say that the Disconnection Epidemic is killing us. Or perhaps should I say, we’re killing us. Metaphorically and literally. Just take a look around at the consequences of our global disconnected-ness. You and I live in a time when mankind is hemorrhaging on many levels; physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually and environmentally, and yet despite our condition, we seem to be resistant to learning. We have managed to both progress and regress at the same time. Quite the achievement. It seems that the more educated, informed and  equipped we become (as a population), the more selfish, short-sighted, illogical and destructive we become also. For a species which regards itself as the intellectual superior to all others, we have an amazing knack for stupidity and irrational behaviour. I don’t know of any other species that has the ability to wreak havoc on it’s own kind like we Homo Sapiens do. Modern Man; what an ironic term. If only the dolphins were running the show. Not only are we seeing disconnection between individuals in homes, schools and workplaces but also on a much larger scale, between cultures, countries, religions, generations, governments, political groups and so on. And no, I’m not talking about normal healthy ideological, philosophical, theological and political differences here, I’m talking about large-scale attitudes, choices and behaviours that continue to create division, devastation, destruction and mass disconnection.

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    When I’m the boss of the world, I’ll address it.

    Until then…

    That may take a while, so in the mean time… what can you and I do to create a greater level of connection with the inhabitants of our own little cosmos? Of course we probably won’t create a global shift or be the genesis for some kind of cosmic awakening in the next week or two (although… ), but in the interim there’s a bunch of stuff you and I can do to create a much greater level of connection, understanding and harmony with those lucky enough to be in our own personal orbit.

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    Talking with, not at

    While there are many variables that will impact on and affect the kind of connection we do or don’t create with the people in our own atmosphere, there is no more important “connection tool” than that of effective communication. And as obvious and fundamental as this sounds, it is often our inability to communicate effectively with those in our world (family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even strangers) which lies at the core of the disconnected reality that so many of us inhabit. Effective communication happens when we have a genuine desire to connect with people in a meaningful and productive manner. For too many of us, talking regularly equates to neither communication nor connection. Some people want to create a deeper level of communication, understanding and connection, while others simply want to talk at people and massage their ego. Ever seen what happens in parliament? Gold. Talking at people will create disconnection while talking with people will create connection – or at the very least, open the door on a healthier and more productive relationship. One is all about being heard and imposing one’s thoughts, ideas, beliefs and will, while the other is all about listening, understanding, empathising and of course, creating connection.

    Here are some no-brainer “connectors”…

    1. Work to build trust and respect. If there’s no trust or respect there can be no real connection. What often appears to be connection is in fact acting and/or manipulation on one person’s part. Simulated rapport I call it. We learn this kind of stuff in basic retail sales training. It’s not connection; it’s role-playing.
    2. Ask the right kind of questions. Ask questions that will generate meaningful dialogue; open-ended questions, not yes-no questions. Ask questions which demonstrate that you’re interested in what the other person has to say.
    3. Work to increase your awareness and to become an active listener. If you are serious about creating connection with someone then give them one hundred percent of your attention in that moment. Yep; all of it. Don’t be anywhere else (mentally). This is not always easy for us as our cerebral landscape tends be a very busy “place”. However, it is a very valuable skill to develop. Do your best to understand the other person’s perspective and thoughtfully consider the intended meaning of their words. Don’t be like many who simply wait for a gap in proceedings to launch their own self-indulgent monologue. As a general rule, listen more than you speak.
    4. Read the non-verbal communication. In any conversation, the words are only part of the message and sometimes, a small part. What people don’t say will often tell you more than what they do. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears.
    5. Speak their language. All the talking in the world will result in zero connection if you’re both speaking different languages. And we see this all the time; the boss and the employee, the mother and daughter, the teacher and the student, the tech-dude (Johnny) and the non-tech-dude (me). Lots of words but no understanding, no connection and no positive outcome. While most of us understand English, we all speak our own “language”. What will motivate one person will intimidate another. What will make me laugh will offend my neighbour. What will make complete sense to you could be totally confusing to your parents (think computer). Know who you’re talking with and learn their language if it’s connection you’re after.

    Acknowledge their feelings. You don’t need to agree with people to understand them, to respect their point of view or to create genuine connection. Having the same philosophy on everything is not a pre-requisite for connection; if it was, we’d all be in a bunch of trouble.

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    The Last Bit

    The disconnection chat, is indeed a much bigger one than the mere morsel I’ve given you to chew on today. It is something that impacts on virtually every area of the human experience (great and small), and something that I believe needs to be addressed in a practical, humble and honest fashion if we are serious about undoing some of the damage we’re living in today. One individual can’t save six billion, neither can she change the mind of the global power brokers or single handedly steer the S.S.Humanity. However, when enough individuals get together, the few become many and we begin to see a shift in power and a practical, positive consequence in our physical world. That is, real change. So if you’ve been impacted by disconnection on any level (and welcome to the club), my suggestion for you is, rather than allowing yourself to be a victim of disconnection (yep, it’s a choice), work to become a connector. Genuine transformation and connection works from the inside-out and today (like every day) is an opportunity for you to become part of the solution, rather than a perpetuator of the problem.

    Every day I choose to create connection and to be part of the solution because I have that choice and that power. I encourage you to join me.

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    As always, love your thoughts.

    More by this author

    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on April 11, 2019

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

    I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

    I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

    Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    How Communication Skills Help Your Success

    Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

    Create a Positive Experience

    Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

    When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

    What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

    Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

    As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

    Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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    Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

    Help Leadership Skills

    It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

    Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

    As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

    Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

    If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

    Build Better Teams

    Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

    In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

    If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

    When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

    Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

    Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

    1. Listen

    Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

    Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

    People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

    Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

    Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

    2. Know Your Audience

    Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

    Here is a good way to think about it:

    Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

    You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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    3. Minimize

    I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

    He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

    Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

    State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

    The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

    4. Over Communicate

    So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

    What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

    Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

    Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

    Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

    There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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    5. Body Language

    The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

    When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

    In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

    When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

    Conclusion

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

    Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

    There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    Now go communicate your way to success.

    More Resources About Effective Communication

    Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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