How Good a Connector Are You? The Report Card

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My first introduction to report cards was in elementary school when grades came out every six weeks. Back then, grades weren’t given in numbers, like 90 – 100, or letters, as in A, B, C, D, F. Instead, students received marks in each subject as one of the following:

  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Unsatisfactory
  • Poor

Even as a child, I knew there was a big chasm between excellent and good. And if you got “fair”, it was a slippery slope to “unsatisfactory”! My teachers back then didn’t share how they arrived at the rulings they doled out.

I asked my mother to explain the mystery. “You first need to be a good student,” she began. “But never forget that if teachers have a natural liking to you”, she said, “you’ll get better grades.”

Over the years, I have always remembered my mother’s words. As I got older, the realization dawned on me that opportunities more frequently came my way – with friendships, work, and romance – if people “took a natural liking” to me.

What’s Social Competence Got to Do with It?

What my mother was really saying was that I needed to develop social skills which would allow me to be comfortable interacting with adults. As a painfully shy first grader, that was a hard lesson for me to learn.

My first real test came in first grade when I suffered a serious bout of dehydration and was hospitalized. My teacher, a fierce taskmaster, was a foreboding figure even before I went missing from school for a week with the illness. On the advice of my mother, I called my teacher to ask what I had missed.

But when she answered the phone, I was completely tongue tied. All I could do was listen as she repeatedly said: “Hello? Hello? Hello?”

Coming to the rescue, my mother took the phone and began the conversation. “Hello, Mrs. Williams,” she began. “My daughter Ann wishes to speak with you.”

“Hi,” I managed to get out. “Well, I bet I better go!”

That awkward interchange was a poor excuse for a conversation. It took me years to learn how to create authentic connections with adults, and later with peers.

But once I mastered the skill, being a connector has brought me untold advantages. I have made friends, secured job opportunities, found places to live, and enjoyed remarkable experiences because I was connected outside myself and my immediate family. And when I went through cancer, my connections were a literal lifeline through diagnosis, treatment, and eventually back to good health.

Your Connection Report Card

If being a connector could be assessed on a report card, the five top subjects to be graded might include:

  • Engaged conversationalist – How present are you when speaking to others? Do you pay attention and stay involved in the conversation?
  • Curiosity – Do you ask thoughtful questions which demonstrate you want to learn about the other person? Do you have broad enough general knowledge which gives you a jumping off place to ask follow-up questions?
  • Genuine interest in others – Do you care about other people and the challenges they face? Do you want to learn about other people just for the sake of widening your circle?
  • Good listener – Do you hear what the other person is saying and genuinely respond to what you heard, instead of pre-formulating what you are going to say?
  • Empathy – Are you able to think about others from their vantage point as opposed to yours? Do you avoid making judgments of others?

Think about whether you’d earn an “excellent”, “good”, “fair”, “unsatisfactory” or “poor” grade in your ability to connect with others.  Write to me at and tell me how you scored.

If you are an excellent connector, it’s a sure bet that people take a natural liking to you.

And that’s not an accident. It happens because you make an effort to extend yourself.  My mother would be so proud of you.



  • Ann Louden

    A seasoned executive in the nonprofit world, Ann Louden is the founder and CEO of Ann Louden Strategy and Consulting. Recognized for her expertise in fund raising, high profile special events, and campaign planning, Ann provides counsel to chief executives, staff, and volunteer leadership. Ann’s primary interest areas are education, health care for women and children, the arts, and adoption. As a cancer survivor, she led and was the twelve-year spokesperson for a breast cancer advocacy initiative that engaged thousands of survivors, volunteers and medical providers. With a mantra of bringing big ideas to life, Ann focuses on identifying a compelling vision and creating a goals-oriented plan for execution. An in-demand national speaker for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Ann is the recipient of the Steuben Excellence in Teaching Award and has been named as a CASE Laureate. She is the author of the upcoming book: From Social Courage to Connection: Lessons from Leaders Who Change and Save Lives. You can find her at

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