Make the Connection

Communication is great. Connection is better.

John C. Maxwell expands on this idea in his book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently. He writes about three key questions that people ask when we seek to make a connection with them. If we can answer “yes” to all three of these questions, there’s a high chance of a great connection.

They ask:

  • Do you care for me?
  • Can you help me?
  • Can I trust you?

Not too long ago, I experienced a clear example of these questions being answered “no” and the lack of connection that followed.

After two nights of heavy rains—almost eight inches fell—we discovered that our basement had water in it. The carpet and pad were so soaked that they were not salvageable. Upon learning that my insurance did not cover this type of damage, I called a restoration company to ask for their help. I told them that we did not have insurance coverage and asked if they could keep the cost as low as possible. They said, “Yes.” I believed we had connected well on this.

The representative from the restoration company told us that if we removed all the carpet and pad ourselves, that would save us quite a bit of money. So Debby, our son-in-law Ben, and I worked together to get it all out and up in our garage before the restoration workers arrived to start the drying process.

Overall, the restoration company did a good job. Our basement dried quickly, and we were pleased. That is, until I received their bill. It was $174 higher than the original estimate, even though we had done a good amount of the work ourselves! I even found some charges on the bill for services they hadn’t done. I called the company and talked with a representative, who reduced my bill by $253. Though I wasn’t pleased, being a man of my word, I paid the bill.

Several weeks later I received a letter thanking me for my business and asking for any feedback that would help improve their service. I wrote back with comments on what I perceived to be areas where they weren’t completely honest with me. Once again I believed I had connected well with them.

Several days later, the owner of the restoration company called and asked to talk with me about my concerns. I thought, “Good! He wants to connect better with me, and he might even apologize and make things right!”

It took about 30 seconds on the phone with the owner to realize that he wasn’t interested in connecting with me or addressing my concerns. He spent 15 minutes telling me how professional his workers were and what a great job they did. He explained that his restoration company was the best in town and that I had been mistaken in my observations. I tried to get through to him with my suggestions, but he wasn’t open to connecting with me. He only sought to communicate his own views and opinions on his own company and workers.

After getting off the phone, I remembered what I had just read in Maxwell’s book: “People who don’t connect see themselves as the center of the conversation.” Also, “Connecting is never about me. It’s about the person with whom I’m communicating. When you’re trying to connect with people, it’s not about you, it’s about them.”

A lack of connection isn’t new. King Solomon observed, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind” (Proverbs 18:2). The owner of the restoration company had given me a perfect example of how NOT to connect. Even though I learned a big lesson from him, I won’t be recommending his company to others.

When you reach out to others, here are a few questions to consider. Do you genuinely care for that person? Do you bring something helpful to the conversation? Can others confide in you?

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