Become a Connection Master

Communication Empathy Respect


Key Point: How many connection points do you have with people you want to advance a relationship with? How do you begin your communication with anyone? Do you start at a connection point and go from there? 

The first time I went to Seoul, South Korea, I was there to work on a consortium between three U.S. companies and a local Korean partner. Shortly after our plane touched down, we gathered with our teams in a hotel meeting room. Our Korean hosts were gracious and well organized. A team of four to five subject matter experts accompanied each CEO. The president of the Korean company then announced without any advanced notice, that the working teams were going to immediately work on our proposal (due at the end of the week), but the plans were different for the four CEOs. Hmm… Ok. So the four of us were shuffled off to an awaiting car, which to our surprise took us to one of Seoul’s most famous spas. No swimming trunks required. Oh, geez. 

Within an hour, we were stripping down to our birthday suits, led from one spa pool to another (some with unusual color… like green tea). This included different types of spa stations (hot rocks, etc.). The four of us knew each other to various degrees from previous meetings and phone calls, however, our Korean hosts made sure we now knew exactly what we looked like without our CEO “uniforms;” just four dumpy, wrinkled, old guys sitting naked in a pool… The last one with water temp at 59 degrees F; our final indignity. (I apologize if this image is causing readers nausea, lol). In retrospect, the strategy of our Korean hosts, while very uncomfortable at first, was quite clever. We needed to be transparent, open, and didn’t have much time to get to a trusting relationship. Getting naked together, while highly unusual for us westerners, helped us get there in a hurry. I wish I could tell you we won the bid. Unfortunately, the RFP (request for proposal) was withdrawn before we could fully compete. However, the four companies had become a team of one very quickly, and I liked our chances if we could have presented our bid. 

Having an emotional connection point is something we teach and encourage as a gateway process in all team and individual learning/development in our company. With anyone we want to advance our relationship (customer, teammate, outside stakeholder), we encourage finding a connection point BEFORE getting into content. It might be as simple as exchanging a smile, remembering names, common circumstances, etc. This applies whether face-to-face, video, voice or text. We want people to connect FIRST. The message is, “I see you,” and “I want you to see me.” After establishing genuine contact, we can really begin to listen to each other. 

Character Moves:

  1. Establish an intentional connection strategy with everyone you want to advance a relationship with. As a real life metaphor, try applying this with strangers that you share the road with. When you see the other car trying to switch lanes, why not graciously let them in front of you? Your action says, “I see you.” How does it work for you when you ignore them, or worse? Present them with your middle finger?
  2. Watch the very best connectors; They have a smile, eye contact, a way of finding a common ground, even when it’s something benign as the weather. The very best are masters regardless of the medium. They remember details, and invest in the bridges between you and them. And we need those bridges to “walk back and forth” on. How else do we begin to really listen and empathize with each other if we do not have a connection point and some emotional place to start from?
  3. The very best communicators are humble and confident enough to recognize the need to advance all relationships, including with those in less advantageous situations and even so called “enemies.” A connection point, however small, begins a bridge and where there is a bridge, however fragile, there is the hope of getting to a better place. 

Master connector in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: When I recently heard that temperatures in Arizona would reach around the 120 degree F mark, a part of me got a little jealous. That type of heat, however miserable, brings a connection between you and everyone else experiencing it. When you burn your hand on a steering wheel, and when your ChapStick liquefies, you can silently pass anyone else in a parking lot and you each give each other the “holy $#!*, is it hot” look. It’s a cool experience, and then whatever meeting you may have with the sweet, sweet relief of air conditioning will automatically be so much better.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis