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How to Improve Your Rapport Development

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.

    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.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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