Here’s the problem: we act like once we’ve delivered a message — transmitted it, produced it, hit “SEND” — that we have Communicated.

Or, at least that we have done everything within our power to make communication possible. The rest is up to the audience.

In practice we have come to equate communicating with the act of messaging. The gifted articulators, writers and poets, designers — those able to produce a message that inspires and stirs — these are the great communicators.

So focused are we on message delivery that we judge communication prowess by how effectively a politician or CEO delivers a message that has been carefully crafted by a professional writer.

Meanwhile, in personal relationship and commerce, in the classroom and boardroom, our own attempts at message delivery fall short. If only we could employ an actor to deliver our lines!

Don’t misunderstand. Delivery is important. Excellent writing skills are essential. Words have the power to tap the canvass of the imagination. To this day, the poetry of Lincoln’s second inaugural gives me chills and conjures images that transcend any ability I have to describe.

But each time we relegate communicating to the act of delivering we diminish the art.

The Missing Ingredient

Poetry aside, the power in Lincoln’s words resides in a measure of understanding — albeit a tiny measure for most of us — that is shared by all who heard the speech live, and all who read his words today.

And as we explored in this post, shared experience is born of intentional listening.

Whether the topic is the next business development presentation, ad campaign, public speaking assignment or perhaps even the complexities of communicating with family and friends, great communication begins with an understanding of shared experience.

Success hinges less on message delivery, and more on understanding shared experiences.

To that end, here are three ideas central to connections that engage.

1. Build communication around one goal — to keep the conversation going. This is one of the threeads of dynamic relationship — the kind that can pick up the conversation tomorrow without skipping a beat. Keep conversations going — longer than one email, ad, speech or pitch — and you change the arithmetic of return on your investments in communication.

2. Avoid monologue; instigate dialogue. What this ends up looking like will depend on the venue and tool; but conversations generally seek to understand as opposed to win a debate. The more conversations in which you engage, the more opportunities for connection you’ll identify.

3. Spend more time listening than you do dispensing your message. When I really listen, I learn. (And when I really listen, I’m not busy composing my next point.)

Three ideas. I’d appreciate hearing yours.

Imagine an approach to social media — or an entire marketing strategy built around on-going proactive listening. Imagine conversations that revolve around the concerns of those with whom you seek to connect. No telling how the marketplace might change!