Does building rapport seem like some sort of mysterious skill you just don’t seem to posses? Worry not! With these seven simple steps, you’ll move from stranger to buddy with just about anybody in almost no time at all.
A genuine I-love-my-life, isn’t-it-a-wonderful-day, what-could-be-better-than-this-moment smile is the best way to invite someone new into your world. Smiling at someone communicates a lot of information very quickly. A smile says, “Hello! I’m not threatening. And I like you,” all in a simple gesture that takes less than a second. There is a catch though: if you’re feeling tense and smiling anyway, people will notice. Don’t force a smile when you’re not feeling happy, instead, find a way to enjoy the moment and produce a genuine smile. Forced or tense smiles will not build rapport and will likely leave the recipient feeling confused and suspicious.
Eye contact is another way to quickly communicate a lot of information. Eye contact tells the other person that you care about what they’re saying. It lets others know that you’re paying attention and noticing them. Eye contact can also convey a lot of emotional content, we can easily tell by looking someone in the eye whether they’re feeling happy, sad, confused, irritated or shy. Take note of your observations as you make eye contact‒you’ll use them in a later step to build even more rapport very quickly.
We humans are social creatures, and scientists have found that when we’re feeling connected to one another, we often mirror each other’s physical posture and movement. Have you ever noticed how when you’re on a really great date, you tend to take a drink at the very same time? That’s called social mirroring and you can use it to help build rapport. Again, it doesn’t work well to awkwardly fake this; instead, tune into the person you’re connecting with and allow your body to naturally begin to mirror the other person’s posture. You might lean in, smile at the same times or touch your face. Or, if the other person is more closed off and distant, you may cross your arms, lean back or look away. Either way, you’re building rapport, because when someone is feeling distant, they will still feel more connected to someone else who is equally distant than they would to someone barging into their space.
If you’re noticing some connection happening already, physical touch can be a great way to take things even further. A handshake, a pat on the back or a shoulder nudge convey a sense of friendship and camaraderie. You do need to be careful not to overdo this one though. Too much physical touch too early can come off as needy and desperate. But if used sparingly, you can almost always find a good excuse for some kind of physical touch. Getting someone’s attention by touching their shoulder is a socially acceptable form of touch, even for strangers. And there’s just something comforting about being around people who are okay with physical touch.
If there’s one universal human truth, it’s that people love to talk about themselves. So the more curious you can be about another person, and the better a listener you are, the more likely others are able to feel comfortable and walk away from an interaction liking you. Imagine your own experiences of the opposite. Have you ever met someone who wouldn’t let you get a word in edgewise? This person just kept talking about themselves all night long without even a question for you and certainly without a concern about how incredibly bored you were. Don’t be that person. Instead, get genuinely curious about what makes this other person tick. What are their likes and dislikes? What are they passionate about? What are their dreams? Building rapport is all about showing an interest in the other person and being likable. So trust me; let them do more of the talking and you’ll build better rapport every single time.
On the other hand, you can’t just check out and forget what the other person is sharing. You do have to actually stay engaged, and one of the best ways to be joyfully engaged is to practice appreciation. When we’re enjoying and appreciating someone else, we naturally do the things I’ve already mentioned. We smile more, make more eye contact, reach out to touch them, mirror their posture and want to know more about them. But sharing your appreciation is where it becomes an art form.
Sure, a lot of your appreciation comes across in your body language or the kind look in your eye, but if you want to kick things up a notch, try verbally sharing something specific that you’re appreciating. “Wow, I noticed that when you talked about your mom, your smile was so warm and I could just feel how much you love her. It’s heartwarming to be around someone who loves their mom as much as you do.” Or, “Ha! When you just mentioned that thing about your boss, I thought, wow, I’m glad we don’t work together! You’re feisty and I like it!” One more note on this: the more authentic and real you can be as you share what you’re appreciating, the better. Just making something up or saying something canned won’t come across as genuine. Instead, find something you truly appreciate, even if it seems odd or off-the-wall. Everyone I know would prefer a unique but real moment of appreciation to some canned line about pretty eyes.
In the same vein, after you’ve been talking for a while, but before the conversation ends, share a highlight with the other person. This leaves them with a moment in time that you most enjoyed during your encounter, and it almost always garners a smile and a, “wow, that was fun,” kind of feeling. For example, “It’s been really great talking with you, and you know, my favorite moment was when I told you that joke and you almost spit your drink out all over the table. That was awesome.” Or, “I’ve really had fun talking with you, but I felt the closest to you when you got all choked up talking about your dad. Thanks for sharing that with me.”
So there you have it: seven simple steps to quickly building rapport with anybody! I would love to hear how it goes, so please feel free to try these out and report back.
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