I had a polarizing father when he was alive. He was a business traveler, public speaker, and would light up a room when he entered.
But although he was bigger than life in so many ways, he had a rare quality for someone who was great on stage.
The legendary Frank Buckley could take the energy he had in front of hundreds or thousands of people and bring it to an audience of one: the person right in front of him.
When he was talking to you, nobody else in the world mattered to him at that moment. He would lock-in and make you feel like the most important person on the planet.
Everybody knew my father.
It didn’t matter where we went, if my father had been there before, he was greeted with a smile that would make you smile and a hug that breathed life into your body.
Everybody felt like my father was for them and their close friend. It wasn’t an act. It was who my father was because he knew the magic of connecting with people.
When my father passed away many years ago, we were not prepared for the number of people that would show up at his wake and memorial service.
The small town of Lockport, IL that held his viewing was not prepared for that night. The funeral home was not prepared. The amount of traffic that overflowed that town was not prepared.
The police showed up to handle the traffic and parking.
It was a two-hour wait just to view my father’s body.
The funeral home had to set up partitions to handle the people flow that was like going through a ride of Disneyland or general security at an airport during peak hours.
But what was amazing, even overwhelming, was hearing the stories that people shared on how my father had touched and impacted their lives.
People had driven hundreds of miles and flown thousands of miles just to attend. But also my father’s dentist, chiropractor, grocer, barber, hardware store guy, and on and on and on.
While people waited in the long long lines, the question that came up with complete strangers was “how did you know Frank Buckley?”
It was incredible to hear the stories from complete strangers of how my father had influenced them so much they felt compelled to say goodbye to the man who was bigger than life but had touched their own life.
My father knew the power of connections.
He instilled the importance of this unique skill set. He told me that many can light up a room but few can warm a heart.
It was a skill that he encouraged and developed in me that has served me my entire career.
Awhile back I read a book that was unlike any other I had read in a long time. Why? I felt like it was explaining how and why I connect with people and what my father demonstrated and taught me.
Sadly though, most people are not taught how to have a conversation or how to click with people in ways that truly matter in business and life.
I don’t want that to be your story and hence this article on conversation and clicking with people.
When you’re able to truly connect with another person on the road, it’s a game-changer. The business side all of a sudden just seems to open up and things get easier.
Because in the end business is done between people.
- People we know.
- People we like.
- And ultimately, people we trust.
And if we can learn this skill, and it is a skill that can be developed and learned, we will become an elite road warrior in the 4th energy habit, PERFORM, the why we’re on the road.
Five ways to Effectively Click with People on Business Travel
In the book, Click, the magic of instant connections, the authors discussed five ways or environments for click to happen naturally.
1. Physical Proximity:
Physical distance directly affects the likelihood of establishing a connection to someone else. You are more likely to become friends with the person sitting next to you at work than someone who works on a different floor of the same office building.
You connect with the neighbors right next to you not as much as those down the street.
- How often – The more often you’re around someone on the road, the more opportunities to click with that person.
- How long – The more time you spend with someone your odds increase as well to connect. 3 minutes in a brief meet-and-greet vs. going out to dinner or attending an event
- Example: when I can take someone out to lunch or dinner vs. in a conference room, the physical proximity changes for the good. If I can take them to an event like a ballgame or Top Golf, it’s a whole different level due to the forced proximity.
It’s known that we like people who are like us and the more we feel that we are like others, the more we create our own “in crowd”. It’s an us versus them mentality that influences quickset intimacy.
When you find someone who:
- Has the same name
- Grew up in the same area
- Same job or role
- Likes the same food, drink, hobby, sports team, same age or bday, left-handed
… you have a quick opportunity to click and connect with them
- Example: NYC dinner at a high-end Manhattan restaurant and my job was to connect 12 people (6 on our side / 6 on their side) since we were going to be working together for a long project – I spent time getting to know each person then connect them with someone else on my team.
The safer we feel with another person/environment the more likely we are to open up. And conversely, the more unsafe the outside environment, the more it pushes us together.
IF someone is more introverted, reserved, or shy, it will take them longer to feel safe with someone they don’t know especially in larger groups.
This is why the 1st two “click” ways are important to build safety: proximity and similarity.
- Example: I find the more I can lead by asking questions that uncover similarities and create environments for more physical proximity, more people will warm up and feel safe. But note, I’m also intentional to create a safe environment.
Think “awareness” of what is going on when you’re with other people.
“Being fully in the moment” allows you to tune into the emotional mood of others around you.
By being aware of others’ needs, you are better able to satisfy them. In doing so, you increase the likelihood of clicking with them. This is emotional intelligence, being willing to be present and not distracted.
- Example: let’s go back to the NYC dinner example. It’s easy to just “resonate” if you will to those around you (physical proximity) and that’s fine but if you want to click at a deep level, you need to be aware of how others around you are in the moment. Are they not talking? Why? Do they seem dis-engaged? Bored? I’ve learned through the years to pull them back in by 1:1 with just that person and ask a question to get them re-engaged in conversation first with me, and then potentially the group.
When an individual opens up to another and reveals personal information about himself, they increase the other person’s perception of his trustworthiness.
You have to be smart AND intentional about what, when, and how much to share.
Whether it’s the first time I meet them and we only have a few minutes or I come back for a 2nd time. (Physical proximity)
Or maybe we spend a good amount of time together at a dinner or event (to create Similarity and Safety opportunities)
The key is leveraging RESONANCE when you’re fully aware of the right moment and reading the person.
- I’ve let people know in the past I’ve been let go of a couple of jobs or why they didn’t renew my contract.
- I’ve let people know I’m divorced
- I’ve been honest about my faith as a Christian by mentioning my morning routine which includes reading the Bible or our family goes to church
You have to determine what you’re willing to share (vulnerability) and what feels safe at the moment.
But I’ve learned from experience when you’re vulnerable and specifically GO FIRST, it’s an absolute game-changer in the connection to click with people on the road.
Let’s transition to… Five Specific Ways to Connect with People in Meaningful Ways on the Road
These are remedial but after decades on the road and dealing with people, I’m shocked how many people struggle in these five ways.
So, as I share them, don’t assume you already do them and brush them off.
Really think about them.
ONE – Eye Contact
TWO – Questions
Why? To find something that resonates with you and them.
“Son, ask people questions and they’ll talk to you for hours. Talk about yourself and they’ll listen to you for seconds at the most.”
THREE – Observe
It’s amazing what you can learn looking at how someone dresses, presents themselves, what they bring with them, the pictures on their desk, how open they are or talk about other people, are they Peter Positive or Debby Downer, etc. –
FOUR – Researching
Leverage LinkedIn to know what they look like, their past roles and experience, their schooling, clubs, etc. Michigan State convo and their disdain for U of M?
You’d be surprised what you can learn. I also leverage #2 of questions and may ask someone else who knows them anything they’re willing to share about the person. I get so much quality information and it’s quick research that really helps me.
FIVE – Remembering
This one is huge especially if you’re following up with this person via email, text, or call at first. What did you learn from your questions, observations, and research that you can use to continue the CLICK with this person?
When I know someone likes something or a sports team, I will always reference it right away.
I have an industry friend who is a Patriots fan and we text anytime his team or my team (da Bears) are on national TV. It’s changed our connection and relationship big time.
And especially when you come back to visit, simply remembering their name and addressing them by it. Referencing something they told you.
I know there are many Road Warriors out there who want to improve in how they perform on the road. They realize they’re either not connecting with people or they can and want to improve in this area.
If that’s you, then maximize how to click with people.
Where can you improve? Seriously? Where are you weak? But also, where are you strong?
This is a skill my father taught me early on that has served me so well in business and especially on the road.
Be near people and look for things in common by asking good questions and create a safe environment. You do this by being fully present and aware then lead with being honest that allows people to open up as well.
You Got This!