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9 Powerful Techniques for Building Rapport with Anyone

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

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 February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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