Ken Gray - Senior Digital Experience Strategist
9 Feb 2022
Everything we do, learn, share, achieve, and experience in life will invariably involve another human being. Even as things become more digital and robots take over jobs, the meaningful work of the future will involve connecting and getting along with each other. In a word, we’ll need to build RELATIONSHIPS.
Relationships require work—however, the rewards make it worthwhile. Whether it’s a business relationship or a personal one, here are some ways to connect more deeply in an increasingly digital world. You will find that many can be practiced in the real world as well.
Over the last two years we’ve been asked to social distance from each other and wear masks that cover the most valuable asset we have when it comes to connecting with each other…our smile.
At Konabos, even though we predominantly work remotely and don’t see each other, or our clients in person, we have a policy to turn on video when meeting online. This allows us to “see and be seen” and to share a smile.
I remember when I would take my youngest daughter in her stroller and she would smile and wave at people all the time, and immediately their countenance would change. They would smile and wave back and often stop for a quick conversation. Let’s remember to be seen and smile.
In a world where selfies and a desire for personal branding are among many people’s priorities, it’s rare to find people that are genuinely interested in other people. In many gatherings, you will find people are more interested in their cell phones than the people with whom they’ve gathered.
Be different. Be completely present in gatherings, virtual meetings, webinars, and as mentioned above, put your video on, remove all distractions (e.g. your phone, your calendar, other work) and look people in the eye and observe.
Engage by actively listening and acknowledging people’s presence and participating in the conversation. Ask questions and share relevant information that helps build rapport, trust, and understanding. Seeing others is a great way to deepen human connection because many people go unseen and under-appreciated.
As a business you can “see your customers” by implementing personalization in many content management systems and marketing technology products available today.
I’ve often heard the refrain, “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care”. However, what does it mean to truly care? Caring is simply doing what is best for others with the right motives.
In building relationships and deepening connections, truly caring will come across in our conversations and our actions. In conversation; paying attention, or what is called “actively listening”, is not just about hearing the words and waiting to respond with an answer or solution, but about hearing the heart’s intentions and gaining understanding of another person’s perspective.
Once you’ve “heard the heart”, a truly caring response is one that is motivated to do what’s best for the relationship, without making assumptions or judgments. This applies in business as well as our personal lives.
Have you ever sent a text or an email that was totally misconstrued and or misunderstood? I know I have. When this happens, quickly apologizing and providing clarity is a fast remedy and shows that you care.
Knowing that someone truly cares, deepens your level of trust and connection with them.
Gandhi is quoted as saying, “be the change you want to see in the world” or said another way, “actions speak louder than words.” In the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, one way we receive and give love is through “Acts of Service”; the keyword being “acts”. If you hear or see something online, and there is an opportunity to deepen your connection through an act of service or by being helpful, be like Nike and Just DO It. For example, you can provide a solution to a problem in a forum, share your story in a podcast, send an unexpected gift, or donate your time, expertise, or money to a worthy project that aligns with your beliefs. It doesn’t have to be big it just has to be genuine.
This past Christmas, Konabos sent everyone within the company their own personalized coffee mug with their caricature on them. It didn’t matter if you were new to the company or had been with them from the beginning. Konabos, cares deeply about its relationships and connections and demonstrated it by sending the mugs.
If you think about any deep relationship or connection you have today, it is probably predicated and built on intentionally spending time together.
Although we have more ways to connect today it seems we connect less and less by keeping busy in our own worlds doing our own things. Today, if you want to build deeper connections, you have to be intentional and schedule times to connect with others.
It may be painful at first, but it also works if you are trying to get your teenage children to come out of their rooms and away from their screens. I have a friend that even schedules online calls with their kids since that is where they are most comfortable.
In Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he explains the three C’s of effective communication and rapport building which are “never criticize, condemn or complain.” Of course, this is easier said than done, especially in the digital world where we can “hide” behind the safety of our screens and the distance of cyberspace to spew any negative or careless thought without regard for others.
Yes, there will be times when we don’t agree or can’t see eye to eye on a topic or issue, but it is in these moments that we can consciously communicate with compassion and empathy. Someone’s life may depend on it, and I mean that in all seriousness. We’ve all seen in the news the harmful and too often fatal effects of cyber-bullying and indiscriminate tweets and rebukes that go too far.
I remember when my kids were small, they would try to “tattle” on each other, and their mother had this brilliant response, “are you trying to get [your brother/sister] into trouble, or out of trouble?” It caused them to pause and be more mindful about their motives and to truly care and be helpful.
The more people I meet, the more I realize that we often have more in common than we do differences. For example, most people feel a sense of purpose and have goals and things they want to accomplish. Most people also have a need to connect. Most don’t like drama and prefer to connect with people that are positive and genuine.
Ask questions to discover more about someone’s likes and dislikes. With technology you can place calls to action or create forms and surveys to learn more about your customers and deliver content, products and services that are personalized and relevant.
If you’re looking for a fun and entertaining way to connect with people, contests, games, rewards, and friendly competitions are great ways to connect more deeply and memorably. Besides, who doesn’t like to let their inner child come out and play?!
I once did a workshop where we had 100+ folks join to learn the fundamentals of SEO (boring!) and one thing the client requested was that we include some gamification. We used an online trivia platform to create interactive questions and answers related to the content and it really lightened the material and allowed people to connect and compete safely. At the end of the workshop, we took a survey to see how it went from the perspective of the attendees and the response was tremendous. We had made a major positive connection with everyone.
Having 1M followers on a social media account may be a worthy goal, but when it comes to deeper connections, you need to be selective as there just isn’t enough time to connect deeply with everyone. It’s the difference between quantity and quality.
There is an expression that goes, “some people come into your life for a reason, others for a season, and then there are those that are here for a lifetime.” A lifetime is a long time and as such, when building deeper connections, don’t be in a rush. Know that it will take time and selectiveness to find and build deep connections and life-long friends.
Last, but not least on the list, is to be genuine. You are the only you on the planet and there is no one better at being you, so be authentic. Do not pretend to be someone or something you are not. People have a sixth sense and can tell when you’re not being genuine, and you can tell when you’re not connecting.
Being genuine is not easy as it often involves being vulnerable and open about your life and shortcomings. After all, none of us is perfect. Of course, use wisdom (see Be Selective above) when it comes to opening yourself up. Share in a way that allows others to learn or be inspired and motivated by your story.
I recently taught a Digital Marketing 101 course to a group of youth, and even though they had been in similar programs at the local college, the one thing they all said, was that the course was taught in a way that was down to earth and they felt like they were the only one in the class. This was by design.
Before teaching a single lesson, I took time to learn the names and the interests of each participant and set up a group chat where I would touch base periodically with anecdotes and personal thoughts. We would also start each day with a good morning greeting and recap of the evening before taking up the assignment.
Use the various technology tools to regularly connect and share with others. Be genuinely interested in others and show it by inquiring of their well-being and offering help where it is appropriate and reasonable. Create a positive and safe environment where others can share their likes and dislikes, their successes and shortcomings. Lastly, SMILE – it’s our greatest asset for connecting.
Ken is a two-time Sitecore Strategy MVP who has been working with the Sitecore platform since 2011. He has over 20 years of experience in business analysis, software development, content management systems, marketing, and digital strategy.
Ken’s passion for digital marketing and personalization along with his coaching and training abilities, aids Konabos in helping dozens of Content Authors and Sitecore Marketers improve their productivity and knowledge of Sitecore; thus maximizing each client’s return on investment.
In short, Ken makes the complex toolset of Sitecore, simple.