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Are You Connecting or Just Communicating?

Recently, I spent some time sorting and categorizing my database of more than 10,000 “contacts,” and I had a startling realization. While I might be communicating with tens of thousands of people every day, outside of encounters with my immediate family and business team, I am not really connecting or fostering very many real relationships at all. I’m what’s called a mile wide and an inch deep, and that’s not how you strike oil! I’ve been mistaking communication for connection.

Since having this epiphany, I’ve noticed how many other people suffer from this same affliction, mistaking the time they spend transmitting and receiving information with time spent making meaningful connections. Don’t get me wrong—both communication and connection are essential today, but one simply does not equate to the other. With the pace of business and life today, it’s so easy to fall victim to this way of thinking; we must move quickly and convey as much information as quickly as possible to stay competitive, or so we think. With all the opportunities technology provides—enabling us to work from just about anywhere and to expand our reach, quite literally, around the globe—it also has become a crutch in some ways. I think true connection happens face to face, heart to heart, live and in person. Sharing the same physical space. Sharing an experience together. Even in a business context, I’m sure you’ve experienced the difference between having a meeting in person versus a conference call or the great limitations of communicating over email—not to mention the shallow experience of simply reading a Facebook update or a tweet.

A wise person once said: there are only a dozen or two relationships that will take you to any level of success you desire. Think about that. Not 10,000, 1,000 or even 100. Ask Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Richard Branson or Oprah Winfrey, and each of them will tell you that no more than two dozen relationships contributed to their extraordinary achievements today. But you can’t just communicate with people in those two dozen relationships; you have to connect with them. These connections can only result from your continued efforts to nurture deep and meaningful relationships.

In our May 2010 issue of SUCCESS, we bring you a feature about networking—particularly, about how to effectively integrate new media methods with old-school relationship-building. Our cover feature is on Mark Zuckerberg, SUCCESS 2010 Achiever of the Year, and how he indulged a college whim and created the global force we now know as Facebook, which has changed the way people connect worldwide.

Meantime, think about all the information you transmit and receive every day, all day. Are you just communicating or really connecting? What do you do to really connect with people? Please share your ideas with the community in the comments below.

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