08 Feb Connecting in a World of Disconnect
Connecting with those around us should be easier than ever given all of the tools at our disposal, yet many of us find ourselves more disconnected than ever. Pay attention next time you have a conversation with someone. Think about how much you actually listen and how much you simply wait for your turn to talk. Is the person you’re talking to doing the same? It’s funny when you start to really tune in how many people have parallel conversations, as if talking to themselves rather than the person opposite them.
What does it mean for businesses striving to reach an audience that finds it hard to connect with the people around them in the ‘real world’? Are you having a one way conversation, having failed to first listen to your audience? Once you’ve had your say are you paying attention to your audiences reaction or are you so focussed on the need to tell your story that you fail to care about theirs? It’s easy to think you’re not being heard but maybe it’s time to lead the way in the art of engagement, by listening, seeking out information from others and by caring enough to meet their need rather than your own. You may just find you ‘accidentally’ reach your own goals that much quicker in doing so.
There’s a world of training out there on how to engage in ‘active listening’, much of it revolving around a misguided approach of paraphrasing conversation so that your audience feels heard. I say to you, “The sky is grey, I feel depressed”. In return you say to me, “So you’re saying grey skies are depressing?” It’s not quite what I said and I get that you’re playing the listening game but in a passive way that’s unlikely to make me shift my thinking or take any kind of real action. In a business sense a lot of communicators are passively, and in some cases, barely listening to their audience to the point that they don’t even know who they’re talking to. If that’s you, how do you know what to say?
So how do you go about connecting on a deeper level with your audience? Do you really need to or is it all just a load of ‘mumbo jumbo’? Hopefully not, hopefully you care just as much about your audience and their needs as you do about your bottom line. Think back to when you first got into business. Was it just to make a lots of money, or was it because you perceived there was a need your business could meet? For the sake of this conversation I’ll assume it was at least partially based on meeting some kind of need. Now think back to those first thoughts you had, whether it be for the business as a whole or at the first stages of introducing a new product or service. What passion was driving you? What feelings did the thought of being able to provide that service or that product inspire? Here’s your starting point for communicating with your audience.
Before getting to that start point though you need to remember seek out information, listen and gauge where your audience is at. Who are you talking to, at what point in the conversation are you meeting them and where is their interest in comparison to yours? Are you delivering a sales pitch, a reminder of the quality of what you have on offer, or are you answering a direct need you know they have based on on your research? It’s no use having a passionate conversation about something no-one needs or is interested in. As much as you need to engage with your audience they’re under no obligation to return the favour, so best you offer them something of quality that is relevant to them.
So you’ve secured the right audience, you’ve gauged their interest, their level of need and you’ve gotten back to that place that sparked your passion. You’re ready to begin. Or are you? One last thing, how are you planning to communicate? Getting back to that point of living in a world that’s disconnected, a world that finds it hard to listen, where attention spans are growing shorter with every new Apple release, how do you now break through and connect? Regardless of your method be it via social media, film, writing web content, meeting face to face… Some simple points: be passionate, speak with honesty, listen and respond according to your audiences need, not your own.