I was introduced to a new speaker and writer at the Global Leadership Summit this year – Vanessa Van Edwards. She’s the founder and Lead Behavioral Investigator at the Science of People. She spoke about the Science of Connection – absolutely fascinating talk. Here are some of my takeaways:

  • Do leaders think differently? Brain scans indicate yes. Great leaders excelled at emotions. Good leaders focus on planning, metrics, and revenue; great leaders focus on connections and emotion in addition.
  • Leaders can get trapped in logistics, metrics, and small talk. How do great leaders connect and do it quickly?
    • Level 1 – General traits
      • When we first meet someone, we ask about their occupation, hometown, family status
      • It is impossible to connect on this level of “autopilot”
      • We have to break autopilot with the people who matter most to us, like our home life
      • It takes COURAGE to ask and answer non-autopilot questions
      • Questions to break through level 1 – Have any fun plans coming up this weekend? How’s [your hobby]? (You have to know and remember this to ask this!)
    • Level 2 – Personal concerns
      • When we understand someone’s goals, dreams, aspirations, worries, motivations, and personality – this is where we begin to make true connection
      • Questions to break through level 2 – What’s your biggest goal right now? Are you learning anything right now? What book, tv, or movie character is most like you? What’s been weighing on your heart and mind lately? What’s your story?
    • Level 3 – Self-narrative
      • The story we tell ourselves about ourselves
      • How we make sense of our journey and purpose through life
      • Questions to break through level 3 – How do you feel most misunderstood? What’s something most people don’t know about you? Who’s your hero? What is the proudest moment of your life?
  • The three most common self-narratives:
    • Hero – think of themselves as having a lot of obstacles and challenges but they have overcome them with hard work – very resilient
    • Healer – dedicated to a life of serving others, giving compassionately – doctors, teachers, nurses, homemakers
    • Victim – think they had a lot of challenges and obstacles but have not overcome them – the world is against them – they don’t think they can overcome and struggle to get out of this
  • Once you unlock someone’s self-narrative, you uncover a key to how they behave and what they believe
  • Self narratives are self creating
  • Behind every success I have had, there is a failure. The more I talk about the dark, the lighter it feels.

This was a powerful and insightful talk. I ordered Vanessa’s new book Cues and am looking forward to diving into this. She has a number of videos online that would be worth your time too – here and here.

Are you a natural at connecting with people on Level 2 and 3, or, like me, do you aspire to get better at this?


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