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How to Improve Your Rapport Development

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How to Improve Your Rapport Development
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    There are plenty of great people in the world—honest, reliable, and considerate—who frequently fail in developing friendships and relationships with the people around them. If you haven’t got good social skills and body language or confidence around others, you may fall into this category.

    If that’s the case, then what you could be missing is the ability to develop rapport. If you don’t know what that is, rapport is:

    a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.

    So, if you’re terrible at cultivating this strange thing, here are a few tips to get you started.

    Smile

    Smiling bypasses the mental defences of the person you are talking to and allows them to mentally associate you with trusted friends. While that doesn’t mean you’ll instantly become a trusted friend, it does often take down the first set of defences people have built up towards other people.

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    A stony-faced, grim look on your face isn’t really going to earn you any new buddies.

    Compliments

    Praise and compliments appeal to someone’s need for recognition and admiration. That recognition is also a pretty rare thing to give and receive in modern society, so tactful and appropriate use of compliments can effectively set you apart from the bulk of unknowns and acquaintances.

    Most people can smell a false compliment from the other side of the world, so be careful. Don’t dabble in lies and look for, and wait for (as the case may be), something you can genuinely say you are impressed by.

    Benefits over Features

    You know the guy who brags, and brags, and brags? If you are anything at all like him, you might want to take some old and clichéd copywriter’s advice.

    Benefits over features means talking about what you can do for others instead of how great you are. In the copywriting context it means focusing the conversation on how the product can help the potential customer’s life, whereas a feature list would simply discuss what makes the product so great. For example:

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    • Feature: Our operating system contains a built-in state of the art firewall.
    • Benefit: The built-in firewall protects you from viruses and malicious intrusions, keeping your computer safe.

    See how you can apply this to your daily conversations and watch the results.

    Benefits over features. What do they get out of this relationship?

    Opposites Don’t Attract

    Strangely enough, oppositions in body language patterns can cause a dissonance in interpersonal relationships and create an obstacle for the development of rapport.

    Matching body language patterns, in moderation and ‘invisibly’ is a good idea. If they use hand gestures when they speak, use them. If they stare right at you when they’re talking, do the same. This idea can even extend to the voice—if you’re talking to someone with a low, monotonous voice, without changing the character of your voice in an obvious way, try and match it. If they have an expressive voice, don’t speak in monotone. Monotones are usually slightly irked by expressive speakers and vice versa.

    This is a psychological thing that bypasses the conscious mind altogether, but subconsciously the guy you’re speaking to will think you’re quite like him and develop a layer of trust or break down an obstacle in the road of rapport.

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    Make Use of Coincidences

    In a similar vein to the last tip, listen for matching interests, opinions and hobbies throughout the conversation, and reinforce your agreement. The more you have in common with someone and express it the more they’re going to perceive you as similar to themselves subconsciously.

    Accentuate similarities, and minimise differences. Don’t lie about it, though—dishonesty kills rapport. Simply focus the attention on the similarities and away from the differences.

    Let Them Talk About Themselves

    In a nod to Carnegie, most of the discussion on developing rapport will make it clear that one of the best methods of achieving this is to get the “target” (for lack of a better term) to talk about themselves.

    People love themselves. It’s a fact they may deny, but it’s true. Except, maybe, those people who call themselves “emos” but I think that may be a self-deluding farce.

    When the conversation gets onto the “target” and their personal lives, let it stay there and be interested in their spouse and kids and where they went on the weekend. Remember details such as their children’s names so you can steer the conversation in that direction at the start of each encounter to set a good tone for the rest of it.

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    Use Eye Contact

    As you probably know, eye contact is important for the development of interpersonal relationships. Use it in conversation, but break it every now and then so as not to make anyone uncomfortable.

    If you’re an introvert and not very good at making eye contact, practice a few seconds at a time. Hold it for three seconds, then four, and work your way up until you’re comfortable making eye contact how and when you please.

    Diffuse Tension

    While this next tip doesn’t necessarily help to build rapport, it does allow you to prevent your hard work from going bust. Learn to diffuse tension and prevent arguments from occurring.

    Locate the source of any tension, swallow your pride and diffuse it—whether that involves making a concession of being wrong, or keeping off the topic. Save yourself the headache of an argument before you’ve even gotten to know someone.

    The Test: How to Find Out Whether You’ve Succeeded

    There’s a simple but usually effective test to see whether you’ve made a connection and how well it has worked. If you’ve been matching body language and voice patterns, make a minor change and see if they follow it. For instance, use an expressive voice instead of a monotone one—gently, don’t go to extremes—and see if they follow your lead. If they are ‘in rapport,’ they probably will.

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    Test as necessary, but unobtrusively and only for short periods of time so you don’t break rapport.

    Some people consider these tips to be in some way dishonest or manipulative. Only if you’re trying to be dishonest and manipulative, I think. I’m totally against anything that falls in those categories and encourage you to use complete honesty and sincerity at all times.

    More by this author

    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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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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