Friday, July 3, 2020

How To Make a Connection

by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone and it was as if you were speaking two different languages? You knew they understood the words, but the two of you just weren’t connecting.

This is frustrating when you’re speaking with a friend or someone in your family. It’s even a worse when you’re speaking in a group setting or writing when you aren’t with the person. How can you know that your audience isn’t just hearing or reading the words, but that they are getting your message? Or worse, that they’ve tuned you out? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could sit with an accomplished, seasoned speaker and get his thoughts on how to get across your message?

That is what I found in Charles R. Swindoll’s book, Saying It Well. I’ve never met him, but I feel like I know him because for years I’ve listened to his radio program, Insight for Living.
Now, don’t leave me just because you’re “not a pastor so what can I learn from him.” Who better to listen to than someone who had to present a new and unique talk each week for decades, to the same group, and yet make it fresh and keep them awake?

Now, most of us are not pastors. We aren’t speaking to large groups several times every week. But if you’re reading this blog, you probably are trying to share a message in some way, either spoken or written.

I found some key tips in the book to help us connect with our audiences, whether it’s one person or thousands. He introduces the book with one of the most important mindsets a speaker/writer needs. Be Yourself.

That sounds so simple yet it can be so hard. Isn’t one of the reasons we want to speak or write is because there was someone we’ve enjoyed who really touched us? When I felt called into church work, I told God I couldn’t be like our pastor, a very charismatic, personable leader. God made it clear that He knew that. He didn’t call me to be a clone of our minister. He called me to be myself. The one for whom He’d made a special plan.

Dr. Swindoll gave three insights he has shared over the years to help: 
  • Know who you are.
  • Accept who you are.
  • Be who you are.

We saw that where God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses knew who he was, but he had trouble accepting God could and would use him. He had all kinds of excuses why he couldn’t return to Egypt and lead his people. God knew all those already. He didn’t need Moses, however He wanted to work through him.

He gives us that same type of opportunity to let the universal Creator use each of us as His special tool. What an honor. It would be terrible to miss it out on knowing God’s presence and power because we are afraid.

Another lesson I noticed was: Don’t mail it in. Even on the days, weeks, when you don’t feel great, and life drops a boulder on you. You don’t know who you may reach who needed to hear your message. Put in the preparation and do your best.

The flip side of that is give yourself some grace. Sometimes you aren’t going to be at your best. Dr. Swindoll wrote about preaching one Sunday after getting some devastating news about his daughter. She had been in a horrible car accident the previous week and they thought she might be paralyzed. After such an emotional time, he had nothing to give and he said it showed, he was tired and felt lifeless. Yet it was one of his more popular sermons from all the responses and request for tapes. Sometimes we can be our own worst critic.

When he looked back at that sermon, though he never mentioned his daughter’s situation in it, the struggles his family were going through had influenced the whole message. This difference in this message from others was something we need to try to show in our own work. Be Authentic. In his talk, he had shown how God was using the topic of his message to work in his own life. People were easier to tune into it more easily.

People want to be talked to, not at. When we look back at a story or a presentation that really touched us, most of the time it wasn’t only what was said that lingers. We feel like we got to know the writer/speaker a little more.

There’s one last point that he made that I think is so important: Focus on the audience. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we want to say, we forget about who we’re trying to reach. How can you help the audience best accept and understand your message?

Dr. Swindoll gave an example of how some of the professors he’d spoken with couldn’t understand why their books hadn’t sold better. When you read the books, you can see that they wrote for other professors like themselves, using the jargon and illustrations that they found familiar. They didn’t write in a way that would connect with their hopeful audience.

Saying It Well gives us a lifetime of experience and knowledge from someone who has touched countless lives over many years, including my own life. When I listened to him, I felt like I wasn’t just listening to a dry lecture, but I was listening to someone who had gone through what I had and understood. Isn’t that how we want to come across?

What speaker or writer really connected with you and why did the connection work? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. 


Tim Suddeth is a stay-at-home dad and butler for his wonderful, adult son with autism. He has written numerous blogs posts, short stories, and three novels waiting for publication. He is a frequent attendee at writers’ conferences, including the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and a member of Word Weavers and ACFW. He lives near Greenville, SC where he shares a house with a bossy Shorky and three too-curious Persians. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at


  1. Great suggestions, as always, Mr. Tim. God's blessings sir.

  2. Very good advice. You wrote very clearly things I've sensed in communicating but couldn't articulate.

  3. This is so timely for me. I have a blog and want to be able to take into account the reader's perspective.

  4. Good words. Needed all the time. :)