Loose Connections

The lament that “there’s nothing good on TV” doesn’t deter me from wanting to be able to watch the tube whenever I want. If the cable company takes the system offline for ten minutes at 2:50 a.m. on Sunday morning, it’s a good bet that I’ll be in nocturnal mode and want to watch something at just that time.

Call it the Murphy’s Law of Cable.

When our regularly scheduled programming is pre-empted by non-stop snow and static, we begin the arduous struggle to arrange a house call from a repairman, who likely will merely wiggle a wire somewhere and bring the viewing universe back into sync with my own. Then he’ll look at me as if I’m the most useless man in existence and sneer, “What? You didn’t even wiggle the wires? Something’s not working, you should know that you gotta move the box a bit, pull on the wires, and maybe unplug them and plug them in again. You didn’t know that?”

“I thought that I needed to chew the wires,” I reply in a feeble attempt to add humor. “Not pull them.”

“You did that damage?” the cable guy says, looking surprised. “I thought a cat did that. Nearly stripped the insulation clean off.”

“The cat did do that,” I said. “I was joking.”

“Cat’s got good, sharp teeth, I’ll give it that,” the cable guy says. “But when things don’t work right, you need to check the connections. A good connection can save you time, frustration and money. A good connection is important.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Electricity is fickle. It demands a stable connection or it will refuse to adequately serve the multitude of chargers, appliances, and electronics that require juice, but the demand for good connections goes well beyond power. From leaky garden hoses to fogged-in airline flights, we’re confronted by connections day after day.

Yet the connections we tend to focus on the least are arguably the most important to our happiness, relationships and careers. As hard as it is to admit, our cable and internet connections are nowhere as important as our personal and business connections.

I use Linked-In to connect for business, but those online connections are just the foundation upon which business relationships can be built. How many connections you have isn’t as important as how you build upon them.

When we connect with family, friends, colleagues and customers – when we maintain and build upon these connections – we find ourselves able to give incredible gifts of time, knowledge and influence. Connecting is an active rather than a passive pursuit. It takes thought and work, whether it means helping a family member with a chore, writing a letter of recommendation for a colleague or really listening to a customer.

In many cases, genuinely listening can make connecting easier and more effective. Rather than anticipating the nature of a problem, interrupting and offering a snap solution, just stop. Bite your tongue if needed, but let the other party have his or her say. Often, listening is the solution. If someone feels slighted or aggrieved, they want to tell someone – you – and unburden themselves. Even if you can’t offer the solution they’d like, being empathetic and listening (without admitting guilt or acknowledging wrongdoing) can provide almost as much satisfaction. If you can offer a solution, do so only after the other person has had their say.

Stop. Listen. Care. That’s the key to making a great connection.

The cable guy’s advice was sound, and it works as well with people as it does with gadgets: “A good connection can save you time, frustration and money. A good connection is important.”

Scott H. Lewis is managing director for the CIS region of Signature Europe. A former journalist and public relations counselor, he has provided crisis, public speaking and presentation training to senior executives across Russia, Ukraine and Turkey.

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