3 Unique Suggestions for Connecting Deeply

One-on-one. A group of friends. An audience watching you on stage. Whatever the context–truly, deeply connecting is the key to making a difference, to getting your message across, to building trust, to leaving a lasting impression, to inspiring good.

And I don’t think the ingredients in genuine connection differ too much from context to context.

So how DO you truly connect?

These aren’t the “top 3 ways.” There are lots of top 3 ways. But here are 3 ways that I found EXTREMELY useful in crafting a recent speech for my Toastmasters club:

1. Don’t describe your history. Use stories that give them the chance to feel your history.

Stories are said to increase your audience’s memory by twenty-two times what they’ll retain from the rest of your words. Stories are powerful.

I think where we can go wrong with stories, though, is telling people everything we think about our stories–how we felt about them, how we understood them, how everything fit in. Those aren’t bad things, but they’re not what’s memorable. What’s memorable–what really connects–is taking your audience’s hand and walking them through the story for themselves. It’s okay if they fill the story in with a few different colors and shapes than you. Let their imagination do its thing. All you need to do is put the audience right there. To put them through the experience as bluntly as you can.

I will understand you far better by reliving a couple crazy moments from your childhood than by hearing all the philosophizing you want to do about it all.

2. Get weirdly specific.

I wish I could take credit for this idea. I have learned to use it a lot, but I learned its value from an interview with a comedian. I’m pretty sure it was John Mulaney. Might have been Mike Birbiglia. It may have been John Mulaney talking about what he learned from Mike Birbiglia–who knows. Either way, here’s the gist: It’s easy to assume that the more broadly shared your experiences, the more people will get you. Well actually, it turns out that people get realness, not generic-ness. Even if their real was a little different than yours–they can feel your realness. People’s own lives aren’t generic, they’re extremely specific. So get very, super, weirdly specific.

For example: “When I was 18 I used to covertly bypass our burglar alarm at night so that I could sneak out later to take walks . . . alone . . . in the dark . . . in my trench coat.”

I could have told you all about how sheltered I felt my childhood was, the lack of freedom I felt, my desperation to get away, my loneliness and what a lifesaver my loneliness actually was to me, my fear and my need to keep my deepest needs sacred, my imagination and its strangely confident sense of my cool self, and the future version of me I expected to be. But those are ideas–concepts–concepts you may have experienced in your own ways in your own life. And making you listen while I analyze all those ideas through my own lenses requires a lot of attention. It requires a lot of you accepting and translating my interpretations. I don’t need to do all that work with you. And you may not have the time or patience. Instead, I can just give you a few really weird details. Details that make you go, “Oh yeah, I also have a weird life,” and then leaves your imagination filling in the blanks in my story. “What kind of kid wears a trench coat?”

3. Make it a roller coaster.

Don’t stay funny. Don’t stay happy. Don’t stay sad. Don’t stay serious. Don’t stay positive. Don’t stay hopeful. Don’t stay negative. Don’t stay bitter.

Life is a roller coaster. A crazy, spicy, ridiculous roller coaster.

Emotional roller coasters get people right in the feels. And getting people right in the feels is what sticks with them.

So lift your audience up. Then dash their hopes. Then show them the beauty in the ashes.

I bet that is an experience they can relate to.

Good luck!

Let’s use our stories to inspire hope and love in each other every chance we get. We’re all in this together!

Jimmy Neil Smith - connection of storytelling

My 100th Post: A Few Thoughts About Writing

I hope you write some things sometimes. And maybe even share your writings with the world. Finding words to express what’s in your heart can be so freeing, healing, and inspiring. And you never know whose life you’ll touch…

Tonight, I’m writing my 100th blog post. Looking back at my experience as a writer, I’ve come to realize a few things: Some surprising, some encouraging, some useful, and some inspiring…

 

Writing can be an incredibly freeing outlet.

Sometimes what you think is your best work is your worst. And sometimes what you think will be your worst work ends up being your best.

Three years from now, you may look back at words you wrote today, and be reminded of a life-changing truth you had forgotten.

Keeping at something–no matter how unimpressed you are with your results–is the surest way to get where you want to go. Lots of little steps add up.

One of the most effective ways to learn, think, clarify, and explore ideas is by writing about the thing you’re learning.

Feelings are vital. Write from your heart. Yes, it’s cliche, but I promise it makes for the most powerful and effective writing.

You will get just as much (or more) from what you write as others will get from reading it.

Other people want you to succeed and will support you.

You never know who your words will resonate with on any given day. Sometimes, in the randomest way, they were exactly what someone else needed.

It’s fascinating and eye-opening to look back at what you’ve written through the years. Even if it hasn’t been Dear-Diary subject matter, it still acts as a journal in some surprising ways.

Don’t be afraid of saying what you really think.

You can be great at writing, love writing, and feel that it’s the easiest thing–and still some days, weeks, months, or even years it can be very, very, very difficult.

You don’t always have to follow the same formula or write what people have come to expect from you. Sometimes a little change or surprise is perfect.

Short and sweet is often best.

Persistence is key, but be prepared for persistence to feel next to impossible when inspiration decides to take the week off.

You will look back at something you wrote and you’ll blush and you’ll cringe and you’ll think “I put that out for the whole world to see?!?” And then you will realize that it didn’t actually do you any harm and that everything is okay.

Sometimes a thing you wrote long ago turns out to be the perfect solution to a problem you’re having today.

Confidence is good and it’s important to learn to brag on yourself a little.

It is okay to say “I am a writer.” (“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach)

Having a hundred different pieces you’ve written can prove very useful later on, like when you’re asked to give a talk, or like when someone asks for advice and you realize you’ve already written down your answer.

There’s no right or wrong way to write. Sometimes you should just rattle off what’s inside and click “Publish.” And sometimes you should plan, think, draft, scrap, draft again, edit, proof-read, worry a lot, and then click “Publish.”

People want to know about you more than you think.

Even if you don’t feel like it, your life has given you so much wisdom and experience and help to share!

You are not writing for the people who will disapprove of what you write. Don’t get stuck on them.

“Mean it. Whatever you have to say, mean it.” – Neil Gaiman

I owe this one to a dear friend, but it’s been proven time and time again by my experience blogging: People connect at the level of their struggles!

Discovering that you helped just one person makes all the hours and energy you’ve ever spent on writing more than worth it!

 

If you have a message burning inside you, try writing it down. You may experience all these good things I’ve experienced. And you may find other good things of your own. And your words may do you and the world a whole lot more good than you expect. Good luck!

(Shout-out to my fellow bloggers and writers! You make the world a better place!)

Neil Gaiman - As Only You Can