The Art of Connecting
How to Overcome Differences, Build Rapport, and Communicate Effectively with Anyone

By: Claire Raines, Lara Ewing

Summary by Leslie Johnston, Business Book Summary

In every kind of business and in every industry, workplaces are becoming more diverse, which has important and challenging implications for communication and for relationship building. Authors Claire Raines and Lara Ewing offer five core principles based on their Titanium Rule—do unto others according to their druthers—for overcoming differences and connecting on the basis of our similarities rather than our apparent differences. People who are masterful connectors are attuned to individual preferences; the Titanium Rule (in contrast to the familiar Golden Rule) is based on the concept that people connect through similarities.

While there are many things that we cannot change, we can always find ways in which we are similar. Masterful connectors believe that there is always a bridge (core principle number one), and that if they persevere, they will find common ground with all people, no matter how different they are. Second, curiosity is key. When we are curious about something or someone, our attention is directed outward, and we are more likely to build a bridge. Therefore, what we assume is what we get (core principle number three). If we think we already know everything we can, or everything that we need to know about a person or situation, then those limited expectations will be realized.
Every individual is a culture (core principle number four). Relying on traditional notions or quick categorizations only lead us back to assumptions and generalizations that prevent us from learning all the complexities that make each person unique. Finally, when we reach out, we need to do so with no strings attached (core principle number five). Although we may be very genuine and intent on communicating, others cannot be expected to immediately jump on board; the attempt to reach out is, however, establishing the groundwork for future relationships.

The core principles are the internal foundation for successful connecting; they are the beliefs and expectations that support effective, connecting behavior. The next step is to put these beliefs and expectations into action. Doing so requires clarifying our intentions, knowing what we want to accomplish from the interaction. We also need to be aware of our own reactions. Sometimes limiting beliefs and attitudes are hovering just below the surface of our minds, and if triggered, they can surface, and we find ourselves labeling or stereotyping others. We need to search for similarities to find that common ground, to find those common, universal experiences that bring us together and unite us as people. We can do this by looking for cues, picking up on subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle signals that others send with their appearance and behavior. Based on these cues, we can adjust and experiment by continually trying something new—what we think will be well received—noticing the response and adjusting based on feedback.
People who connect well are able to shift their perspective to see situations from different vantage points. They learn how to mentally step out of their own experiences to observe the interaction as if they were the other person or an outside observer. Having this mental flexibility can often give us the ability to come up with more, and better, options for approaching the situation. Changing perspective is a mental skill that improves with practice.

While the above applies to individual interactions, for those who lead groups of people across any boundary of difference, whether it is a leader working with a different, but homogenous group or a leader working with a group composed of diverse members, the task of connecting is even greater. A group leader's task in these situations is to create support with the majority of the individuals in the group, something that can be accomplished by finding "bricks of similarity" that apply to many individuals in the group.

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