“Do you connect with people or correct people?”  This was a question posed at a conference I attended this summer.  What a great question!

It’s no secret that some people communicate to connect and others to be right.  When our ego gets in the way, our agenda becomes about far more than making a real, true bond.

I bet you have experienced real connections with people you have just met while others left you feeling confused or cold.  It feels so much better, enriching even, when you can relate to something with another person – a friend, colleague, coach, boss, or even a stranger.

I’ve been accused of taking a long time to get “on task” in a business meeting or interview … typically because I spend the first few minutes finding a way to establish a connection so that we are both at ease before we get into the details of our meeting.  This is true with my clients and service providers and was true when I was hiring or being interviewed for a job – sometimes that throws others off a bit, but it always allows us to settle in and have a better, more engaging discussion over all (in my humble opinion).  I’ll call it breaking the ice … but really, I just wanted to know the other person was, you know, human.

Some people have trouble engaging, resulting in awkward or stilted conversations with people they’ve just met or people they’ve know for years.  This could be for a number of reasons … perhaps they’re shy, lack confidence, lack trust in someone they don’t know, or they believe they know more than the person they are talking to … to name a few.

One of my favourite colleagues from my previous life (in corporate) basically told me to “F-off” the first day we met… my first day on the job.  To say I was shocked was an understatement!! I wasn’t sure whether to be offended, frightened or laugh.  I just held my breath, eyes wide open and jaw to the ground, I’m sure!  Thankfully she laughed, a huge belly laugh, and said “welcome aboard”.  Even though she softened up almost immediately, the message to me was clear – don’t mess with her!  I steered clear for a while, but over the years came to know her very well and ultimately we worked closely together.  She really was a softie, but had a mask that allowed her to keep the people she needed to at a distance.  When confronted with a work-related issue, she was very strong minded.  She knew her role well and was not shy to tell others how to do things “right”.  She was in correcting mode.  That said, those she trusted, she appreciated immensely and would do anything for… even be willing to listen to another perspective.  With those people in her life she had deep connections… even if she dropped a few friendly f-bombs along the way, just for effect!

I know another person very well, who when you meet him exudes confidence and is the life of the party.  However, he is a competitive spirit and never wants to appear as if he doesn’t know something about everything.  He will engage you for sure, and if you start to share your knowledge, he will not be outdone … he may talk over you, louder and louder until you give in and hear him out.  Always up for a good debate, this guy doesn’t fear challenging others or being challenged … although he does want to win in the end, so may resort to personal zingers or sarcasm.  Is this person really as confident as he seems?  My guess is no. Does he want to be loved and respected?  Of course and who doesn’t?

Have you ever been in these situations?  Or have you been the one “correcting”?  My guess is we all have at some time or another.

Before you judge someone as stand-offish, or arrogant, or rude, remember they may be wearing a mask or sorts to present as more confident than they truly are.  Perhaps they are afraid of offending or looking foolish so retreat and remain quiet and seemingly unapproachable.  I know I’ve been in situations where I’ve behaved differently than I’d like to because I was unsure of myself at that time.    Instead of judging someone as rude, dismissive or aloof, consider finding a way to connect with them.

A couple of years ago, I found this acronym and love it still.  It applies to any respectful interaction with another human being.  Having shared this via email with the leadership team at work, a few years ago, one of them called me to say “Thanks!  I don’t usually share these kinds of things, but this is different! I’m going to pass it along AND take it home.”

So here it is … a good reminder for all us to pause before we speak and ask ourselves …


Telling the truth is essential, but sharing something “because” it is true is not always helpful, inspiring, necessary or kind.

For example, stating the obvious, sarcastically, to a teen is neither helpful nor inspiring… I did my fair share of that, I’m sure.  (Ouch!)

If you manage or are mentoring someone, it may be necessary to point out something that could be done more efficiently or effectively, or that shouldn’t be done at all.  That’s fair.  There is no reason not to share that feedback in a way that is still helpful, inspiring, and kind. 

Simply put, some things are better left unsaid if they are not additive to the conversation.  In fact, sometimes asking a question, then listening is most helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind. 

When providing critical feedback, it can be even more constructive if you asked the person in question how they would change their process (behaviour, solution etc) in order to improve their overall effectiveness.  If they have no solutions, ask if they’d like some help with that.  They are likely to be much more receptive in a situation like this.  Then, commit to being truly helpful.[/fusion_text][tagline_box backgroundcolor=”” shadow=”yes” shadowopacity=”0.7″ border=”1px” bordercolor=”#aa0101″ highlightposition=”top” content_alignment=”center” link=”” linktarget=”_self” modal=”” button_size=”” button_shape=”” button_type=”” buttoncolor=”” button=”” title=”Over to YOU!” description=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””]

How can use of the THINK acronym help you communicate to connect better with others?

Can you recall a time where you have overtaken the conversation and realized (way too late) that you were less than helpful or inspiring? How would you re-do that conversation in your mind? Did you say anything that was not really necessary?

As a coach, mentor, manager or team leader, how can you apply the THINK process to improve your ability to connect with your client or team?

If you are at an event and see someone standing on their own, could you use any of these points to spark up a conversation that would help them feel welcome and connected? How difficult would it be to be kind and helpful by introducing them to some of your friends / colleagues?

Finally, if you ARE the person standing alone, would these tips help you start a conversation with someone new? Could you pay them a kind compliment? Ask for help? Tell them something funny and true about yourself? You’d be surprised how many barriers that can break down!


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