Book Review: Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What The Most Effective People Do Differently by John C. Maxwell

John Maxwell is a great communicator–especially as a public speaker–so when this intriguing title crossed my radar screen, right at the time I was developing this blog about the Power of Connection, of course I checked it out. At the time, it was not yet published…Mr. Maxwell had decided to try a new writing model and put up one chapter at a time on his blog for his followers to read, review, and critique. He promised to consider all comments before making his final edits. By the time I knew of it, he was on his last chapters. I did make a comment and he did include me in the list of contributors.

The premise of this book is two-fold:

1) There's a difference between communicating and connecting in a meaningful way; and

2) Anyone, regardless of his or her personality, “people skills,” or natural talents can learn to be a better communicator, whether in personal or professional relationships.

This book, for me, was well worth reading, as evidenced by the highlighting and number of book nibs I left attached to is pages. It could have used more judicious editing, however, to avoid repetition, and a layout person could have helped the reader with some improved formatting. The chapter by Maxwell's writer, Charlie Wetzel, was intended to help us know Maxwell better as a fine person. While it did give a different glimpse of Maxwell (who by all accounts is truly a really genuine, warm person who lives what he preachers), it seemed a bit like a commercial inserted into the book and would have been better as a separate section for bio and/or testimonials.

Having said all that, however, the nuggets of wisdom, the wonderful illustrative–and often humorous–stories, the great quotations from other leaders, and the “can-do” attitude Maxwell conveys to the reader were all excellent. He successfully made the case that an effort to improve one's communication skills can “take their relationships, their work, and their lives to another level.” I especially recommend this to someone trying to improve their public speaking skills.

The underlying sub-theme throughout is that we must approach everything we do with the belief that people are valuable, and all the connecting skills we need to cultivate are merely ways to convey that sense of appreciation and valuation of people to them in whatever way we interact. Whether we”re communicating with loved ones, co-workers, clients, or an audience, we need to care about–and try to understand–their needs and wants BEFORE we start. If we come to the engagement with only a desire to promote our own self-interests, we've missed a golden opportunity. “To add value to others, one must first value others.”

“What former South African president Nelson Mandela said is true: ‘If you talk to a man in the language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.' The bottom line is that indifference is really a form of selfishness.”

One “Aha” piece of the book for me was in his discussion about the importance of having passion for whatever you're trying to convey, and he distinguishes passion from emotion. He suggests that before you speak to people, you should ask yourself these questions:

1) Do I believe what I say?
2) Has it changed me?
3) Do I believe it will help others?
4) Have I seen it change others?

“If you can answer yes to those questions you'll do more than just light a fire under people. You will build a fire within them! If you have that fire. it will ignite others.”

There are lots of practical tips here on ways to prepare for an engagement with someone and ways to be a better communicator. Perhaps more than anything, Maxwell is trying to make us understand that our attitude towards others is critical, and once we get that right, the rest flows more naturally. Nothing new here in the realm of self-help, but Maxwell's style is engaging and personable, and his stories often went that extra mile to help teach something important.

Please use the Comments section to share your thoughts about connecting.

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