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9 Powerful Techniques for Building Rapport with Anyone

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9 Powerful Techniques for Building Rapport with Anyone

If you have ever heard the expression “doesn’t meet a stranger,” you likely know that the phrase describes someone who is unconditionally friendly and able to converse with anyone. Some people have this trait, and others wish they did.

I cannot tell you how many times a colleague has walked into work or sat down to talk to me at an event only to say, “Hey, I met your mother. She is so friendly and so nice.” My mother truly doesn’t meet a stranger. She seeks to find common ground with each person she engages.

Throughout my life, I have met other people who can walk into a room of strangers and emerge with the seeds for deep relationships and bonds. These people are open, vulnerable and – typically – great listeners.

From these folks, I have learned several techniques for building rapport with anyone:

1. Shift Your Mindset to an “I Am Worthy” One

If you struggle with feelings of low-worth, you may have difficulty building rapport. You will wrongly believe that other people are better than you, and perhaps that you do not deserve to be in communication with them.

You must believe that you are worthy in order to share your ideas, challenge ideas that are incongruent with your belief system and banter with others.

If you want to learn the skill of building rapport with anyone, you must first examine how you esteem or view yourself. At your core, you are worthy. You do not have to do or be anything to be worthy; you are worthy by virtue of your existence.

You are worthy because you are living the human experience. If you can shift your mindset and truly embrace your worth, it will be easy to build rapport with others.

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2. Ask Some Variation of “Tell Me About Yourself”

I recently read a fascinating article by New York Times reporter Jolie Kerr about NPR host Terry Gross.[1] Gross, the host of “Fresh Air,” starts her interviews by asking subjects to tell her about themselves.

She says opening interviews this way allows her to avoid mistakes that places subjects on the defense. She is also able to learn, via their own words, what’s important to them. Conversationalists may consider doing the same way.

3. Look for Indicators of Shared Humanity

At our core, we are all the same. When I feel anxious about being in a relationship or conversation with people who appear “perfect” or are very accomplished, I remind myself that at our core, we are all the same.

Regardless of how much money individuals have in the bank, they want to be treated with the same dignity and respect that each of us requires for ourselves. They want to be liked because of who they are, not because of what they have.

If you can remember that, at our core, we are all the same, you will be better positioned to build rapport with anyone.

4. Identify One Thing You Can Appreciate About the Person with Whom You Are Conversing

I grew up in a very religious household. Our entertainment was going to church revivals or visiting my mom’s friends’ churches. When our church had events, different speakers with different styles would preach sermons.

I learned that regardless of who the preacher was, the tempo of the music for different churches, I could receive something from the speaker. As a young adult, I worked for a Lutheran social service organization, and my mentor was a Methodist minister.

As a result of these experiences, on one day I could be in an apostolic church, and on another I could be in a Lutheran church. One day, I could be at a Pentecostal revival, and another day I could be at a Lutheran auxiliary meeting.

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Over time, I learned that it didn’t matter the race or religious tradition of the group I was visiting; if I paid careful attention and tried hard, each speaker and each congregation had something unique and worthwhile to offer.

The same is true in conversation. Separating the truly disgusting people who harm children or exploit the vulnerable, there is something to admire about almost everyone. Even your enemies have admirable traits. Even the colleague who annoys or triggers you in ways you didn’t know were possible has something that is worthy of praise.

If you approach every conversation with this mindset, you will indeed be able to build rapport with almost anyone.

5. Inquire About Family, Friends and Pets Only If Your Speaking Partners Introduce These Areas First

If you feel stuck in a discussion and are not sure how to make a connection, look for cues that the person with whom you are speaking is open to discussing his or her family or pets. These areas are deeply personal, and while most people gush when talking about their family and the animals that they adore, you have no idea what is happening in a person’s life that may make him or her less than receptive to tackling these issues.

Not every person’s life is filled with happy memories or experiences about family, friends or pets. For instance, there was a time in my life where I hated engaging with people outside of close friends about my oldest son, who at the time was living with his father. Being in situations where people assumed I had custody and then not knowing how to discuss the situation triggered anxiety and stress. I would get defensive or look for ways to exit the conversation.

I have also been on the opposite end where I asked what seemed to be a benign question about a person’s child only to learn that the child had recently passed away.

I offer these examples as cautionary tales – listen to determine what topics are within bounds and which ones are off-limit.

6. Research about the Person

To have substantive conversations, you must research the person or persons with whom you are engaging. You should know what drives them professionally and personally. This technique is more appropriate when you are attending an event and have a sense of who will be at the gathering.

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In the age of social media, this information may be more readily accessible than you expect.

7. Listen to Understand

Listening is an underrated skill. As a society, we are intentionally taught how to listen well. Even when we invite colleagues or friends out for lunch or dinner, most of us struggle with the urge to check social media, text messages or email.

When we are not distracted by technology and devices, sometimes we prepare responses while the person with whom we are engaging is still speaking.

Listening highlights how you hold the other person in esteem. Since many people are poor listeners, when you exhibit good listening skills, you signal to other people that you are interested and that they are worthy. Take a look at this guide to learn how to listen to understand: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

The respond in kind by having positive feelings about you and by wanting to be in conversation with you again.

8. Be the Person Who Tells the Truth

In my professional career, I have developed a reputation as a truth teller. I work to tell the truth in love and to tell the truth even when doing so carries some risk. I am learning that people in authority or in great leadership positions do not always have people around them who are willing to tell them the truth.

Honesty requires courage and a willingness to take a chance. It requires diplomacy and wisdom – and you must understand the conditions that make different leaders more receptive to truth. But many leaders can come to appreciate someone who they know will be honest with them.

If a leader asks you how you truly feel, find the courage and the words to diplomatically and carefully tell the individual the truth. This will improve your rapport with the leader.

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9. Be Open

So many conversations at happy hours, receptions, conferences and events are transactional and shallow. I am skeptical that many result in genuine and authentic connections.

I think one of the reasons this happens is because everyone has a representative, the better version of ourselves whom we send to social events. When someone dares to send or show up as their real selves, the decision is like a breath of fresh air. And it allows others the freedom to shed the persona and the liberty to be themselves. This works in large settings, and it can work as a technique to build rapport.

When I advise that you be open, I am not referring to giving too much information too fast or doing so in a way that is irresponsible. I mean acknowledging where you are in the moment.

If you are at an event but are focused on a presentation that you have that went awry, say that. The conversation may go something like this,

“I really am interested in learning more of what this speaker has to say, but I am mentally stuck thinking about a presentation that I just gave that didn’t go according to plan.”

When you do this, you give voice to what you are holding inside and you let the person with whom you are engaging know that there are dynamics at play that impact how you are showing up.

You can indeed build rapport with anyone, and these tips show you how!

More to Enhance Communication Skills

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Jennifer R. Farmer

An author and trainer specializes in helping socially-conscious entrepreneurs, celebrities and activists

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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