Communication & Connection: They’re Not What You Think They Are
How & Why the Art of Connecting Matters for Business & Beyond
By Hanna Marcus
Hanna Marcus is one of the newest members of The Joshua Group. She uses her expertise in writing and journalism-style interviewing as a People Builder and CFA Builder within TJG. Find out more about her and the rest of our team here!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve viewed communication and connection as art forms in the purest sense.
To this day, I find it incomprehensibly magical that with just a few intentional (and hopefully genuine) words or moments, you can form bonds that last decades, seal business deals, or change someone’s life entirely.
Connection is overwhelmingly powerful, and communication – as an arm of that – is powerful, too.
But that’s not something I’ve always understood or knew to be true.
I think it’s important to point out that when I call these things art forms, I recognize that I viewed these kinds of “art” very differently during specific stages of my life.
As a young child, I caught on pretty quickly to the fact that the more effort I put into communication and connection, the more often I was viewed as mature and responsible.
Being well-spoken from a young age made me seem older and more capable. And as a result, I was awarded the trust I needed to do things I wanted.
Throughout my teenage years, I realized that communication was an art in the way it granted me the freedom I craved.
The more I invested in my written and verbal communication, the better I did in school, the higher I scored on important tests, the more streamlined interviews were, the more options I had for colleges to attend.
When I went to the University of Florida and picked a major, Journalism seemed like a natural choice.
Whatever raw talent I was gifted with in terms of talking with people and writing words had been finely tuned over the years. The idea of interviewing people, communicating with sources, and telling stories was captivating to me, but importantly, I thought I’d be good at it.
It was then that I (a young 20-something, wannabe-journalist who thought she knew everything about communicating with people) learned a tough lesson:
Connection and communication weren’t anything like I thought they were.
Connection and Communication Aren’t What You Think They Are
The first time I ducked under police tape to get the scoop (yep, journalists actually call this kind of thing a scoop) during a breaking news story, I was hit smack-dab in the face with a harsh reality:
I had no idea how to communicate with someone who desperately needed to be heard.
I’ve always had the gift of gab.
Toss me in a room with a ton of strangers, and I don’t break a sweat.
There’s plenty we all have in common with each other, and I’m relatively good at finding that common ground if you give me enough time to talk with you. Top that off with the fact that I’ve never been shy and naturally lean toward never being embarrassed, and I’m a regular communication party trick.
But connecting and communicating with someone in these situations – someone who’s just been part of a tragic accident, has lost a loved one in a way the media deems a newsworthy event, is looking for their missing child, is pleading with the public to continue the search for their fiancé lost at sea – is different.
Because essentially, there’s quite literally nothing you can say to someone in tragic situations like these.
No words can do any justice, and in my experience, anything that comes out of your mouth at that time sounds cheap.
Talking at someone going through something tragic doesn’t work, and worse, it feels wrong.
As a journalist (and one who aimed tirelessly to be tactful, respectful, and knowing of when to just leave someone alone), it was my job to connect with people immediately – communicating their story in the most honorable way I knew how.
And for the first few months of this, I failed. Really miserably.
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what to say to someone watching their apartment building burn down or a person standing at a lake’s edge, hoping the rescue team would come back with good news.
I’d babble, I’d try to relate, I’d just sort of stare – nothing worked.
When I approached my favorite professor with my problem of being lost for words – something I’d never struggled with before – his response became a permanent part of me:
"Why are you trying to say anything at all?”
Communication – and more importantly, connecting with other human beings – rarely has anything to do with what you say and everything to do with how willing you are to listen.
I’ve never taken advice faster.
Suddenly, sources were opening up to me like never before, my relationships with my friends and family were improving, and even from an introspective place, I was able to identify people in my life who didn’t care to listen in the ways I was learning how to.
This communication crash course was where I started to figure this all out: Listening is the real art behind communication.
What’s This Personal Backstory Got to Do with Business?
No, I’m not comparing everyday workplace happenings to the tragic and traumatic events I covered as a breaking news reporter, but ultimately, everything in life can be broken down to how well we communicate.
Presently, I’m a copywriter running my own business and regularly working with an influx of folks from different companies, business cultures, and with unique goals.
Time and again, listening as a method of communication is what I’ll always point back to as being the most beneficial thing I’ve ever put into practice.
A quick search on the internet tells you everything you need to know: listening is primarily considered a must-have skill for effective communication.
And effective communication is the foundation of a successful company, client relationships, and progress, right?
Of course, this isn’t all just stemming from my opinion.
Forbes itself says that “listening is the single most crucial skill in communication and building your business.”
Listening – really listening – as an active part of bettering your communication can:
Show people that you value and understand them. According to LinkedIn, when people (employees, specifically) feel cared for at work, they’re more likely to be happy to recommend working with your company.
Help you be fully present in a moment – something everyone appreciates when they’re communicating with you.
Improve employee productivity and motivate employees.
Boost your employees’ and colleagues’ communication confidence (and yours, too, since you’ll actively listen to them and get to know them).
Drive innovation. Those who know their leaders listen (and really hear them) are more inclined to speak up and share ideas.
Help you make better decisions. The more information you have on hand, the better – and often, employee and colleague insight can be that guiding light to help you make better decisions.
The Listening Lessons You Need to Know
But listening as part of communication isn’t just about shutting up, opening your ears, and feigning interest; there’s so much more to it...
Here’s what I mean:
Stop Hearing – Try Listening
By this, I mean stop waiting for your turn to talk.
Hearing is a passive human autopilot function. You’re mostly nodding along, thinking of something else, awaiting a long-enough pause to add in whatever quip you’ve got up your sleeve.
Listening, on the other hand, is an intentional action.
Listening is leaning into someone, paying attention to who they tell you they are, building trust, relating to them, and connecting deeper.
Actual Connection Doesn’t Happen Half-Heartedly
Human beings are inherently tuned in to intention.
We all know when someone is barely interested in chatting with us, let alone when they’re not interested in investing in us.
The only experience I can draw from is my own, and much of the lessons I learned about connection came from my time as a breaking news journalist. During these years of my life, I realized that insincerity isn’t just unproductive; it’s disrespectful.
The people in your life – your employees, boss, colleagues, friends, strangers you pass on the street – generally deserve respect and your desire for connection.
If you genuinely want to connect with your colleagues, hear your employees, and build a more successful business while bettering your relationships, genuine intention must be the driving factor behind your listening.
Just Take That Coffee Break
I get it; life is busy.
I currently run my own copywriting company, and I know that running a business is hectic, hitting deadlines is chaotic, and there’s never enough time in the day to do it all.
But genuine connection is about meeting people where they’re at when they’re ready, and sometimes, that’s in the break room at 11:35 on a Thursday morning or in the five minutes before every participant pops up on the Zoom call.
There’s no timeline for genuine connection and communication, especially when you prioritize listening.
In these few minutes – by the coffee machine, near a car in the parking lot on the way out, waiting for the printer – you can take the time to learn enough about someone to establish a connection.
Communication is our Thing – But We Can Help You Make it Your Thing, Too
The entire team here knows a thing or two (or more) about effective, intentional, and productive communication – and that includes listening to build better connections.
If you’re ready to learn more about making this happen in your business, reach out to us at 404-432-0181 or email us at email@example.com.