Practice management advice from John Marvin

Make it your goal to connect, not merely communicate with others

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 edition of INVISION.


Have you ever been in a social setting with someone who does all the talking? After a while, you want to raise your hand and say, “It’s OK, you can stop now.”

And talking is hardly the only way people can go “on and on” these days. Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, texting: Everyone is constantly communicating.

Or are we? As George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” There is a difference between communicating and connecting. True connection is less about trying to be interesting and more about being interested in the other person.

As a business owner, your success depends on your ability to connect with other people. Every day, you talk to patients, you talk to your staff, you talk to your family. But ask yourself: “Do I really connect with these people?”

Connecting with others increases your influence with them. When you actually are able to connect, people have a better understanding of you, your values and whether or not you have their best interest at heart.

Here are three areas where you can begin to develop the skill of connecting with your patients, your staff and even your family. Look for areas in common. People who connect with others establish common ground on which they can agree. To do this, you must get over yourself and focus your attention on the other person. Listen to what is important to them. You can’t find areas of agreement when you are consumed with what you want. Don’t assume you know all about them. Take a real interest and you will find a place to start. You will find common ground.

Let your smile speak for you. People who connect with others are enjoyable to be around. They look for the good in each situation. They take the time to share a sincere compliment. They wear a smile. Many people’s attitude and demeanor build a wall that prevents them from connecting with their co-workers, their staff and even their patients. Everyone has problems; everyone has good days and bad days. People who connect make others feel good about themselves and their circumstances. So make a conscious effort to smile more often.

Be an inspiration. According to author and leadership expert John C. Maxwell, people who connect (and not just communicate) follow a particular formula:

What they know + What they see + What they feel = Inspiration

People need to know that you are on their side. Your ability to connect will be in proportion to your understanding of their feelings, desires and fears. The people with whom you connect will know that you care about them and they can trust you.

We are funny creatures. We often decide whether or not to pay attention to someone in mere seconds, and this is based on what we see. We read people quickly and determine whether or not they are someone with who we want to connect. Are you pleasant? Do you carry yourself well? Do you look others in the eye when you listen to them? People need to see that you are interested in them in order for them to be interested or influenced by you.

How do you make people feel? Do you make people feel better about themselves? Or do you talk down to them to make sure they know what a dumb move or decision they made? People who connect with others always make people feel important and valuable. When there’s a problem to address, people who connect focus on the error, not on the individual.

Everyone is attracted to people who actually connect with them. And for independent ECPs, the good news is this: You can offer authentic, face-to-face connection in a way no online eyewear peddler or big-box rival can.

May you have a month of true connection!


With more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry, JOHN D. MARVIN writes about marketing, management and education at the practiceprinciples.net blog. He is president of Texas State Optical, a member-owned cooperative of 120 independent, professional optometry practices. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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