Other people are our greatest resource. Most everything you’ll ever want in life, you’ll need someone else to help you get it. From dry-cleaning to a promotion. From the fine art of sexual conjoinment, to that convertible you’ve been coveting. It takes (more than) two to tango. You can’t do it all alone. The benefits of creating and maintaining rapport with other human beings are enormous, so unless you’re a natural, it’s an essential skill worth learning.
So what is rapport?
A dictionary definition describes it as relation; connection, esp. harmonious or sympathetic relation. It’s all about communicating effectively in your life, to strengthen your connection with people and ensure you are understood. And it has its roots in the French verb, rapporter, to bring back. It’s a give and take scenario here. Successful communication is equally important between family, friends, lovers, and work colleagues. Personal development expert, Tony Robbins asks: “Is it more important to be right, or more important to be in love with someone?” Good question!
It’s your choice: win friends and influence people? (Dale Carnegie’s seminal book, originally written for sales people in 1937 is still a best seller) or in the case of journalist Toby Young: lose friends and alienate people [great book/hilarious movie].
When younger, I made little effort to maintain rapport with people who rubbed me up the wrong way. But in hindsight and some age-gathered wisdom, I now see that these people were generally just mirroring aspects of myself I hadn’t integrated or were still completely unaware of. These ‘pain in the butt’ folks were actually my greatest teachers – or would have been if I hadn’t exited sharply stage left. Today, I’m happy to say I rarely dismiss new contacts out of hand, and instead take time to find out what makes them tick. To imagine the world from their view and stand in their shoes for a while. Not easy, but a whole lot smoother on the nervous system than outright condemnation and disregard.
I’ll admit to only just having read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and will also admit to being blown away by its contents. Despite its much-maligned title, Mr C’s message is as applicable today as it was in the Thirties. And you don’t have to be in sales to benefit. This book has made me sit up and think so profoundly that I’m going to repeat 10 of his building blocks of successful rapport right here:
Don’t criticise, condemn or complain.
Give honest and sincere appreciation. Become genuinely interested in other people.
Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound, in any language.
Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
Make the other person feel important. And do it sincerely.
Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong”
If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
Let the other person save face.
By applying even a few of these each week since reading the book, I’ve noticed a profound change in my relationships with others. Most noticeably is that I’ve become infinitely more interested in other people. Not just people who are like me. But everyone I meet! Every human being you are likely to encounter in life will have an incredible story to tell. And is always worth listening to.
Here are my own tips for creating better rapport:
1. Make eye contact. And hold it for longer (without staring!)
2. Make your body language open. Uncross your arms, uncover your heart and turn to face the person you are talking to. This encourages openness and trust.
3. Show that you’ve been listening by asking appropriate questions. Sincerely. Most people spend 95% of their time thinking about themselves. They love it when you show genuine interest in what you’re doing.
4. Find common ground from the beginning of the conversation. Generally, people like people who are like themselves.
5. Listen for verbal thinking preference clues. Is the person you are talking to visual (I see what you’re saying), Aural (I hear you), Kinaesthetic (How do you feel about?).
6. Step into the other person’s shoes and imagine life from their viewpoint. Not a single person on the planet has exactly the perspective on life. Yet we often imagine other people see things exactly the way we do. Wrong!
7. Match your tone, pace, volume and inflection – without it being obvious – to the person with whom you’re talking. I’m not talking about mimicry here, rather a subtle shift in the way you communicate.
The above points are easy to practice – and you’ll be amazed at the results. Happy connecting!