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Adapt to Connect

I am so excited to be returning to Puerto Rico this month where I’ll be speaking at the El Conquistador Resort for SHRM–PR. Shay and I are bringing the whole family to enjoy the destination and make some wonderful memories.

The audience I will address at this event speaks Spanish as a first language, although most are also fluent in English. I do not have the same multilingual dexterity, although it is something I aspire to achieve one day. Of course, you don’t achieve aspirations without stretching into uncertainty and doing what is necessary to succeed.

On a previous trip to PR, I began that stretching exercise by opening my talk a little differently from usual. Watch this video to see what happened when I began my program by speaking Spanish.

Now I’m not trying to dazzle you with my language skills. I want you to notice the audience’s reaction.  In less than a minute, I was able to establish a tremendous connection with the crowd and achieve not one but TWO rounds of applause. Why?

I adapted to them.

Instead of coming out and showboating my skills and message, I humbly and imperfectly met them where they were. I valued them enough to try something different, even at the risk to my ego. And it worked beautifully.

After this opening, the audience was far more receptive to hearing what I had to say. And I had earned the right to showcase my skills and talents.

What does this mean to you?

Into Action: Adapt to Connect

Whether you address an audience of hundreds or an audience of one, the quickest and surest path to persuasion is connection. To connect more quickly and with greater depth, follow these guidelines:

  1. Stay focused on others. Prepare for an encounter by seeking to understand the perspective of the person (or people) you will meet. Or even if you are meeting someone unexpectedly, ask questions and focus on their circumstances before you get to yours.
  2. Strive for presence, not perfection. Authenticity is conveyed instantaneously. When we mask our true selves for fear of exposure, we distance ourselves from others. Stay in the moment. Tune in. Listen.
  3. Take a risk. When you demonstrate that you are willing to fail, you convey confidence and resilience. Vulnerability is compelling, and others will secretly (or sometimes enthusiastically) cheer you on!
  4. Stay humble. Nobody likes a blowhard. Those who command respect do so by embodying respectful attributes. Chief among those, is humility.
  5. Don’t waste time. Connect quickly. Get to the point. Be authentic. Resist the urge to create barriers to genuine connection, and don’t waste your time or, especially, the time of our audience.

True connections do not happen accidentally. Respect, attention, and authentic connection are earned, intentionally.  When you step off balance and into uncertainty, stay on purpose, propelled by your understanding of your audience, as well as your plan.

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