I’m obsessed with bridges. I still remember the first time I crossed the Coronado Bay Bridge that connects Downtown, San Diego to Coronado Island. I asked myself, “Wouldn’t a straight line across the bay, instead of the 80% curved bridge, make more sense? Shorter distance. Cheaper to build and maintain.”
Later I learned that the Coronado Bay wasn’t the only barrier to overcome. Engineers had to figure out a way to leave enough clearance for US Navy ships, which operate out of the San Diego Naval Station and must maintain regular access to the bay. The ideal bridge, which exists today, must be high enough for all US Navy ships to pass beneath, but not too steep for vehicles to ascend and descend.
Bridges are a true testament that Bridge Builders will always find a way to overcome challenging barriers standing in the way of worthy goals.
The Bridge Builder Factor
Today’s Bridge Builders—those who overcome their obstacles to reach their most ambitious goals—share one crucial trait: They are superb communicators. They understand that before they can get what they want, they must rally the support of others.
They communicate confidence.
They share stories that inspire audiences to take action.
They resolve conflict quickly.
They are problem solvers.
Chances are you have a story to tell. A product, service or idea to sell. If you have worthy goals to achieve, inside or outside an organization, join the ranks of today’s Bridge Builders by being intentional about five bridge-building habits.
Think Like a Bridge Builder
World-class athletes invest as much time in building and maintaining their mental capacity as in refining the hard skills of their sport—perhaps even more. Most of them will tell you that psychology—the way you think about yourself, your ability, and your potential—is more important than raw talent or even the work itself.
Thinking of yourself as a Bridge Builder (not as a business professional or an entrepreneur) is the first step. Imagine how your communication will be transformed when you begin to tell yourself “I’m a Bridge Builder,” before sharing your ideas.
In The Power of Habit: Why We do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg talks about keystone habits, “the type of habits that can trigger widespread change.” Thinking like a Bridge Builder—believing that your purpose as a communicator and as a leader is to build bridges to others—is a keystone habit that will trigger the other four.
Listen Like a Bridge Builder
Listening is one of the most neglected aspects of communication because it requires concentration—being present. Listening in order to have a chance to respond is not the trademark of a Bridge Builder.
Be fully present. Put away the phone. Listen with your eyes. Listen with your body: lean in, nod, and affirm. Resist the temptation to hijack the conversation: Avoid steering the conversation with your own story, advice, or leading questions.
Act Like a Bridge Builder
We’ve heard that actions speak louder than words. Acting like Bridge Builders, then, means to act with empathy, authenticity, and respect—for the benefit of the other person.
We put the relationship above tasks and agendas. We serve first. We give our very best before expecting anything in return.
Talk Like a Bridge Builder
Bridge Builders are persuasive communicators—whether they communicate with one person or in front of a large audience. Persuasion happens when we reach our audience’s hearts and minds. You can become more persuasive by being fully present, by organizing your ideas into a clear story, and by helping your audience see that the story you are sharing is not just about you, but about “us.”
Lead Like a Bridge Builder
Leadership is influence. Bridge Builder leaders are empathetic and authentic. They aren’t afraid to ask for feedback. We follow them because they know who they are and where they’re going. They invest in the vision before anyone else does. They aren’t ashamed to lead with their heart and serve others along the way.
And yet, they don’t build bridges to everyone—nor do they want to—because doing so would require diluting or compromising their core message. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Margaret Thatcher are good historical examples. They deeply felt the weight that overpowered the people they were trying to reach (empathy) and presented their messages with conviction, no holds barred (authenticity). They didn’t reach every person, but they built bridges to the hearts and minds of enough people to achieve their vision.
Bringing It Together
Poor results are the symptom of a divide between what you want to communicate and an audience who isn’t buying into your message. Reaching your goals, acquiring more customers, enjoying stronger relationships, or having greater impact—all of that is possible when you master the art of building bridges.
If you are ready to have a personal or professional breakthrough, become a Bridge Builder.
Maria Keckler is the author of Bridge Builders: How Superb Communicators Get What They Want in Business and in life and the founder of Superb Communication, a San Diego-based firm that works with leaders and organizations that are ready to overcome communication challenges and want to be more successful than ever before.
Maria Keckler’s poignant story and innovative ideas have made her a sought after executive coach and dynamic keynote speaker, trainer, and consultant. For over 15 years, she has worked with executives and leaders from global companies and non-profit organizations. Whether she’s coaching executives, scientists, managers, salespeople, healthcare professionals, educators, parents, students, or ministry leaders, her mission is to see new Bridge Builder cultures emerge where people show up every day excited to make a difference.
Apply for a complimentary breakthrough session with Maria using this link.