When learning the art of public speaking the best piece of advice I was ever given was: “They're not listening, and they don't care.” In other words, help your listener by connecting with them at an emotional level. This is how the world's most powerful orators Influence others.

As humans we are hard wired to connect. Matt Lieberman, social cognitive neuroscientist and author of the book Social describes human connection as the fourth element for survival.

When we communicate using language, each participant's brain is on the lookout to ensure the interaction is within a safe environment. Knowing what can trigger the brain into thinking ‘This looks dangerous, get me out of here!’ Or ‘This sounds potentially rewarding, I'm keen to stay and find out if it is,’ matters. Being related to at an emotional level helps others to make the decision to trust, believe and ‘get' what you are saying. That's why using connection to influence is an essential skillset in every leader's toolbox.

Connecting in the Digital Era 

The digital era has expanded our ability to connect, changed the language we use, and increased the speed of transmission, making communication both harder and easier.

Online, it’s not only what you say, but how you say it that matters, because the cues traditionally used in a face-to-face communication to determine the meaning of the message i.e. tonality, facial and verbal expression are not available.

Using correct grammar, keeping messages short and using words that are commonly shared helps to prevent misinterpretation or misunderstanding.

In face-to-face interactions humans are highly skilled in determining whether there is congruence between what you say and your body language.

If congruence is missing, the listener is five times more likely to believe the non-verbal message.


Building connection face-to-face

The three essential facets for building connection include time, attention and trust.

Time to connect

While the most enduring relationships form over time, that first impression is created in just a fifth of a second. Once formed, you make assumptions about that person, regardless of whether they are true or false. Being mindful of your collective biases assists you to stay open to changing your mind.

Take turns to speak

While appearing to be just common courtesy, research has shown how primates engage in turn-taking sequences to boost cooperation and interaction.

The ‘C' factor, or collective intelligence of a group, has been shown to correlate with the degree of social sensitivity of group members.

Listen up

Listening helps you to pick up those nuances of the other person's mindset, emotional state and viewpoint. This allows you to adjust your tonality, and language to keep them in a ‘towards' state of safety as you say your piece.

It shows you are paying attention.

Grab them at ‘Hello’

Being interested in the other person, using a welcoming voice and being enthusiastic in your delivery sets the tone or mood of the conversation.


Brains can pick a phoney a mile off. A smile starts with the eyes. It's the first step to creating trust that can be extended by stimulating oxytocin release through physical contact with a handshake, or reassuring pat on the arm depending on what is culturally and socially appropriate.