- Have you ever been at a networking event or in the casual chitchat phase with senior leaders before the meeting gets going, but somehow you find yourself talking about the weather, when you don't give a darn about it, or yapping about traffic, when it's boring you to tears, or any other inane topic while your inner voice is shouting at you, I couldn't care less about this, and I bet they feel the same. What are we doing! Or maybe the conversation was moving along, but suddenly it comes to a screeching halt. All at once, you don't know where to take it next, and a simple pause stretches into an awkward silence and then an oppressively uncomfortable nothingness.
At that point, any topic would do, even weather or traffic. Your not alone, and it's not just for so-called small talk situations. Establishing authentic rapport is a crucial bridge builder, and rapport failures can cause people to perceive you as narrow-minded or being uncomfortable with yourself or even as having a hidden agenda. Rapport isn't just superficial, because something more important registers more deeply, automatically. It's emotion, how people feel.
Establishing rapport is fundamentally about connected emotion. I love how the poet, Maya Angelou, expressed it when she said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Test your experience. If you unexpectedly run into someone you haven't seen for years, even if you don't remember lots of specifics about what they said and did, you still have an immediate feeling reaction. That's the powerful and visible math of emotion, and it starts with rapport.
Anyone can build it, because the secret of rapport is this, help others feel a little better. Simple as that. Take initiative to help them feel better in a way appropriate to their situation. You can help them feel more empowered, encouraged, appreciated, understood, capable, cared about, making progress, energized, or just happier. Here are two techniques to help you do it, something to ask and something to share. Here's the something to ask. You can almost always find a way to ask this question.
What do you like most about, and then fill in the blank with whatever is appropriate to the person and situation. What do you like about your job, that project, this conference, working with this team? It immediately takes you to their perspective, demonstrates your interest in what interests them, and is emotionally positive. And you can tweak the words. What's your favorite part of or what's the best part of, and then fill in the blank. As they respond, show you're interested. Say, that's really thought-provoking or that's interesting.
Use positive curiosity. I'd really like to hear more about, and then fill in the details. Asking questions isn't your only option, though, especially if your counterpart isn't naturally outgoing. You can also take the initiative, with the same overarching objective to set a positive emotional tone and help them feel better. That's our second technique, something to share. What do you share? Something from your recent experience that you really liked or enjoyed or that helped you gain insight. I call this like, laugh, or learn.
Keep track of things that you like or make you laugh or help you learn. They happen every day anyway, so notice them and share them whenever the time is right. Be emotionally generous. For example, when someone asks that usual question, how's it going or how are you doing, instead of replying with a generic good or fine, dive right in. I'm in a great mood. My little daughter, she scored her first goal in soccer yesterday. She kicked it into her own goal, but hey, it's a start. Or I saw a great movie or I read a great article, and then add something specific and positive about the movie or article.
With the right tone, sharing not bragging, your like, laugh, or learns are the perfect way to signal your willingness to be open and that you'll also invite them to reciprocate. Do your kids play soccer? What do they like to do? Or did you see that movie? What movies do you like? It takes almost no time and energy. It's just noticing the good stuff that comes your way and sharing it. Always have a fresh like, laugh, or learn to share. You'll add emotional value and help others be more comfortable about getting to know you and having you get to know them.
It's another way to help them feel a little better. With practice, you get better, and it gets easier. So, practice anywhere. Networking events, in line at the supermarket, anywhere you can. Be brave, go first. Try it with three different people this week. Give it a try. Build more rapport with friends and colleagues or build it with people you don't know. Sometimes, you can't avoid having to drive in bad traffic and awful weather, but from now on, you don't have to talk about it. You've always got better things for both of you to do, when you have something to ask and something to share.
- Managing the intent-impact gap
- Designing the content of your message
- Improving vocal delivery
- Adjusting your body language
- Being politically savvy
- Listening to what's said, what's unsaid, and how it's said
- Increasing empathy and trust
- Overcoming anxiety<br><br>
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