How to relate to others (from Veterans to Playboy Playmates)

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Last Monday evening, I presented a leadership keynote to 100 war veterans who now, post-service, are in the construction trades. I must admit I was a bit nervous, as my usual audience are entrepreneurs and business owners looking to write books or develop online brands and content.

One thing I’ve learned about public speaking, is that it doesn’t matter how much you prepare beforehand, you must feel the energy in the room and create eye contact to serve, engage and provide value to the audience. Basically, a template talk can not be duplicated and repeated for every audience, you must redesign and recreate as you walk onto the stage.

To find common ground with these veterans, I shared my father’s story of being a disabled Vietnam Veteran, and his resiliency to persevere after being honorably discharged from the US Air Force and bringing my British mother to Louisiana in the late 60s during a volatile time of racial segregation and discrimination. Instead of subjecting himself, my mother, and my brother to these circumstances, he moved his family to Sacramento, CA where I was born.

Sharing my father’s story was a powerful lesson on relating and creating connection.

With that, here are 3 ways to relate to others, whether speaking from stage or connecting one-on-one.

  1. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Developing empathy creates connection and relationship. Imagine if you walked a mile in their shoes. What are your thoughts? Feelings? Physical sensations?
  2. Find or create common ground. What do you both have in common? I had lunch with the Playboy Playmate this week. To look at her you see beauty, youth, and a pin-up figure. She shared with me that she wants to develop a speaking career, and I coached her that developing common ground with the audience is essential, otherwise, many people will be intimidated by her beauty. I coached her that sharing her childhood story would create heart connection and intimacy with the audience. As an audience, we look beyond the external and superficial when people are vulnerable and share their truth.
  3. Generous listening. The biggest gift we can give others is listening. That’s why they say God gave us two ears and one mouth! Listening to their words (and the pauses in between the words) creates relationship, empathy and understanding. Be a present listener.

What are your tips in creating connection? Share a comment below.

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