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“…a quick-read treasure-trove of useful skills and practical advice….organized into digestible chunks of charts and lists, and lots of stories make the ideas come alive.”
-Gulfshore Business Magazine
“…a quick-read treasure-trove of useful skills and practical advice….organized into digestible chunks of charts and lists.. the ideas come alive.”
-Gulfshore Business Magazine
“…an excellent book.”
-Denver Business Journal
Many of us struggle to connect with those who seem different. But there are a few rare individuals who are extraordinarily good at it. We were curious to discover what made some people especially effective, so we decided to study three such people to find out what makes them tick. We were certain that if we looked below the surface at interactions involving these masterful connectors, we would uncover patterns, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that could help anyone interested in connecting more effectively when there are differences.
Both of us listen to National Public Radio, and we pay special attention when Terry Gross interviews a diverse spectrum of people on her show Fresh Air. We decided to dig deeper into her success at connecting by learning everything we could about her. As we were thinking about people who connect particularly well, we stumbled across an article about Richard and Michele Steckel and their Milestones Project in the Denver magazine 5280 (that's the elevation in Denver!); that short article made it clear the Steckels had a lot to teach us-and that, in them, we could study two masters for the price of one. Finally, Lara has known and admired Héctor Orcí for nearlya dozen years and was curious to delve into his success at bridging the gap between diverse groups of people, especially the mainstream advertising community and the Latino market.
When it first dawned on us that the masters we'd chosen were all past fifty, we were disappointed. We had hoped our masters would represent both young and old. Then we realized that their mastery came from the lessons they had learned over their years of experience. They've interacted with all sorts of people through many kinds of difference in all kinds of scenarios. They've tried and failed. They've tried again and succeeded. They had talent as young communicators. And now they've been at it for years. It's all that experience that makes them masterful. Their beliefs have been challenged, and when those beliefs became obstacles to connecting, they took the time to examine their beliefs and change them as appropriate. They've experimented with certain behaviors over and over again. Over time, the ability to connect with all kinds of people has become an important part of each master's identity. Once we figured all that out, we knew it made sense for our masters to be older. Their profiles are rich with information about connecting with people who differ from us. If you're a younger master-or a master in the making-perhaps these stories will offer some shortcuts or encourage you to continue if you stumble on your own pathway to masterful connection. And if you are looking for mastery in younger models, take heart. We learned a lot from younger people, too, and you will find their insights in every chapter.
We googled Terry Gross and got 1,670,000 hits. We scanned hundreds of those citations and then studied her book, interviews other journalists have conducted with her, and dozens of transcripts, articles, and print interviews to uncover the secrets to her success as a connector.
We learned that a typical day finds Terry in the recording studio, her elbows resting on the counter as she peers through her glasses and leans in toward the microphone as if to encourage it to say more. "I listen as hard as I can," she says. "I follow people into places they want to go and then lead them back."
Terry has a remarkable ability to connect with all kinds of people, draw them out, get them to reflect on their experiences, and talk about themselves. She's the host of Fresh Air, a one-hour program distributed by National Public Radio to more than 450 stations daily. Since 1987, she has interviewed a wide array of people; they include an Islamic leader from Detroit, an Iranian filmmaker, a Chinese chef, a gay-rights activist, a former White House press secretary, an eighty-two-year-old rabbi, a conservative pundit, and a leading neurologist from the Harvard Medical School.
Terry Gross has an extraordinary following-nearly 4.5 million people tune in each week to listen to her in-depth conversations-yet she just looks like an ordinary person. She's tiny-only a fraction of an inch over five feet-and she often dresses all in black. Her straight light brown hair is cropped close to her head. She typically wears only a plain gold band on her left hand and a large watch on her right wrist. She often wears a leather bomber jacket she bought at Gap Kids to make herself look "reasonably hip." Her work environment isn't flashy, either. She sits in front of a microphone with a sign that reads WHYY-FM-the Philadelphia public radio station she works for-in a small, dark room with no windows. On the day she interviewed Ayesha Imam, a Nigerian women's rights activist and a Muslim, Nigeria had just withdrawn as host for the Miss World Pageant due to violent widespread protest from the Islamic community.
The night before, Terry had dragged home a bag full of tapes, books, and articles, and she had stayed up until midnight poring over information about her guest, the country she comes from, the political situation there, and events surrounding the pageant. Terry doesn't write out questions word for word; she says she doesn't want her guests to feel like they're being asked things off some random questionnaire. But she has a general sense of a set of questions that flows logically from one to the next, following a loose story line. She also has a clear intention of how she wants the conversation to feel and to flow. Sticking to her plan isn't critical; instead, she listens carefully, allowing the conversation to take its own direction, improvising if she gets an interesting opening.
The first question she asks Ms. Imam on air is, "When you first heard that the Miss World pageant was scheduled to be held in Nigeria, did you worry there would be problems?" It's a masterful place to start. She's learned enough to know that Ms. Imam will be comfortable with the topic, the question will engage her, and she will be interested in talking about it. And Terry formulated a question that takes her guest back in memory to a specific moment in time. This strategy delivers an answer that is fresh and spontaneous.
The question reflects Terry's knowledge of the events surrounding the pageant-the Muslim protests against it, the riots that broke out, the conservative Islamic legal backlash-but Terry isn't trying to show off how well she's done her homework. Rather, she wants her guest to shine. Terry has based her question on Ms. Imam's preferences. She has stepped into her guest's shoes to see the interview from her perspective and then designed a question based on that perspective. She says that the more she cares about someone, the deeper she can take the interview.
Listeners would be surprised that Terry Gross and Ayesha Imam are not in the room together. Terry rarely meets personally with her guests. They're thousands of miles away-on the phone or in a sound studio-linked by satellite. While many of us might worry that geographic distance would exaggerate the gap between us and those we're trying to connect with, Terry prefers it. Although it might frustrate us to operate without visual cues to encourage us, Terry relishes being just a voice.
She loves the invisibility of radio. "Since we're not looking at each other," she says, "we're not judging each other by the clothes we're wearing or how our hair is that day."
Since there are no withering looks and no one across the table to stare her down, it's easier for Terry to ask tough questions. Guests never see Terry yawning, checking her notes, or glancing at her watch.
Without visual cues, Terry needs to be all the better as a listener, tuning in to voice cues. Everything she and her interviewee need or want to communicate must be said in their voices. She gives guests the sense that there is plenty of time to converse thoughtfully with someone who is genuinely interested in what they have to say. As a result, her interviews often sound like two friends talking on the phone.
In response to the first question-whether she worried there might be trouble in Nigeria-Ms. Imam tells Terry she knew problems were likely to occur because both conservative Muslims and conservative Christians are uncomfortable with the idea of beauty pageants.
As the conversation continues, Terry doesn't shy away from serious issues-religion, rape, and morality. Her most pointed question-"Do you think that Islam is incompatible with women's rights?"-might be offensive from another interviewer. But inherent in the tone of the question is Terry's acceptance of Ayesha's beliefs. Terry times it well, asks the question sensitively. And it follows logically from the conversation they've been having. Terry admits that, were she at a dinner party, she might not be quite so direct. On the radio, she cuts right to the heart of the matter, and she asks the tough questions up front. She tells Ayesha and all her guests to let her know if she is asking things that are too personal.
Ayesha answers unequivocally, "No. It's not what Islam is or isn't. It's what people make of it." To illustrate, she tells a story that comes from the traditions of the life of the Prophet Mohammed. A young woman went to him and told him her father wanted to marry her to her cousin. The young woman wanted to know if her father had the right to do this. Ayesha says the Prophet answered that he did not.
"Okay," the woman said, "I don't mind marrying him. I'm just glad to know I have the choice."
Terry pauses and waits an extra beat to make sure Ayesha is finished, not just taking a breath. That thoughtful pace gets her below the surface where she learns intriguing things about her guests. Imam tells her that, when she was twelve, she started a club for "good eating and good works."
"What was that about?" Terry asks, and it turns out that Ms. Imam went to boarding school, and the food was bad. And Ayesha was interested from the beginning in helping other people.
"So you got an early start there," Terry says, with the rich laugh that is her signature.
By the end of the interview, Terry has learned that Ayesha had an uncle who wrote about women's rights in the 1950s and that, when she studied in England, Imam felt fragmented by all her causes-women's rights, black people's rights, economic rights, and social justice. These details would likely have gone undiscovered by another interviewer.
In her interviews, Terry's goal is to connect people's lives and their work. She delves into their personal worlds-the people and events that shaped them-because it is the best way to better understand their work.
When Terry is interviewing someone, she tries to ask them about the cataclysmic moments in their lives-when they were in a car accident or struck by lightning-because those things change people. She feels that, if she doesn't ask about events like that, she misses out on important clues to who people really are.
She asks, "How did you feel?"-even though journalists are taught not to use words like "feel"-because the word helps her establish the work-life connection. For the same reason, she asks people about their failures, the mistakes they've made, the challenges they've faced. There's something in her tone that lets her guests know it's okay to have warts. "We're defined at least as much by our failures, the contradictions in our lives, as we are by our successes," she says.
Interviewing combines Terry's love for reading, stories, and learning. Early in life, she decided she didn't have many stories of her own she wanted to tell but that she wanted to hear all the stories she could. "The whole world is filled with stories waiting to be told," she says.
She credits her mother for her powerful listening skills. "She was a wonderful listener," Terry says. "I could have said anything to her. I mean the most boring thing in the whole world, and she was endlessly interested in what her children were doing. Maybe that helped teach me the importance of being listened to and the importance of listening to somebody."
How Terry Gross Connects
* Putting the focus on the other person
* Being nearly invisible
* Creating an atmosphere for unhurried conversation
* Staying up-to-date with people, events, trends
* Respecting individuals
* Accepting different beliefs, values, lifestyles
When we analyze the way Terry connects with people, we are studying attitudes and skills she developed and polished over nearly thirty years. Terry is clearly a master at connecting. More than anything else, we believe her success is based on her attitude that it's not about her; it's about her guests. She's friendly, down-to-earth, and unpretentious. In her observer role, she seeks to be nearly invisible, putting the focus squarely on those she's interviewing. In 2004, Terry compiled a book of her interviews. In the introduction to All I Did Was Ask, she tells readers the question people ask most often about her is what she looks like. To answer, she tells readers about the jacket from Gap Kids-there's a label inside with her name in case another kid has one just like it. But after divulging only that one detail, she refers people to the book cover. It's black, and more than half of her is in shadow.
Terry creates an atmosphere that lets her guests know they have all the time in the world. Her skillful listening-her monitoring voice cues and pausing to encourage the speaker to say more and her love for a good story-tells them the focus is on them.
And then there's her meticulous research. Not only does she spend time reading about her guests-the countries they come from, the industries they work in, the projects they've done-but she keeps up with what's going on in the world. She subscribes to nine or ten newspapers and magazines to stay current on people and events.
Her respect for the people she's interviewing is evident not only from the time she takes to prepare to interview them but also from the way she treats them. Her questions, her tone of voice, and her hearty laugh demonstrate that she cares and empathizes. She doesn't pursue "gotcha" moments. "I respect someone's right to privacy, and I want them to know it," she says. "I feel that private citizens don't owe telling us about their dysfunctional families or their former cocaine habit. It's really none of our business." Some of Terry's favorite interviews were with Orville Schell, dean of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. He was in China when President Clinton was visiting there, and each evening after a hectic day of presidential events, he would stretch out on the bed in his hotel room and call her. Then, he says, he'd turn out the light, lean back, and spend an hour telling her all that had happened that day. What Schell enjoyed most was the sense that he could think out loud and even try out some new ideas at a leisurely pace with a masterful listener who was sincerely curious about everything he had to say.
Excerpted from The Art of Connecting by Claire Raines Lara Ewing Copyright © 2006 by Claire Raines and Lara Ewing. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|Ch. 1||Masters of connection||7|
|Ch. 2||The core principles||39|
|Ch. 3||Pathways to connection||69|
|Ch. 4||Points of view||103|
|Ch. 5||Working with differences in groups||131|
|Ch. 6||Twenty questions||151|
|Ch. 7||Crossing the bridge - three case studies||179|
|Ch. 8||Learning activities||187|
Posted October 31, 2006
After studying people who have a great ability to connect with others, authors Claire Raines and Lara Ewing analyzed what you need to do to become a 'people person.' They present easy-to-follow guidelines. The most crucial tip is that you can find a point of similarity with anyone, no matter how different he or she seems from you, if you believe you can make a connection. First, learn to listen carefully and, then, once you uncover that similarity, you can build on it to communicate. Raines and Ewing fill their book with anecdotes from actual experience, and lots of ideas for fostering communication and overcoming differences. We recommend this manual to managers of diverse groups and others who want to learn to resolve conflicts.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.