I taught how to build rapport in classes I gave when I was in the business world. I don’t think a lot of people give this topic much thought but it directly affects the quality and success of our lives. There are always those superstar exceptions but most people need others to like them if they want to be successful and certainly having the ability to build rapport, positively affects our relationships (i.e. co-workers, family, friends, etc.), in one way or another.
Building rapport isn’t that difficult it just takes knowing what to do and practice. Some people have an innate ability but it’s certainly the exception to the norm. Some people have an innate ability not to build rapport like people who are driven (Type-A Personalities). These people have to work harder at it because their personality doesn’t include a lot of people skills…they especially don’t have patience for those who aren’t driven.
Here are some things to know about this topic:
Ø Remember people care less about being impressed than they do to impress. This means when you’re at social gatherings don’t try and sell yourself instead be a great listener and allow them to sell themselves. If he or she asks you specific questions about what you do for a living then answer but do it in a humble way instead of trying to make more of it than it is.
In dealing with business people it might be necessary to share more insight into your work exploits but more people in your life don’t care about your success story and in some cases they don’t like it. You might not think you’re bragging but when you’re talking to people who might not be doing as well as you, they might think you are and of course this is a potential kiss of death when trying to create great relationships.
Ø Anywhere you go whether it’s something small like a dinner with friends or a business meeting, think ahead about some things you can offer to the conversation. A little while back I was at a dinner where a girls’ soccer coach was there. He was from Argentina and his wife from Brazil and of course die hard World Cup fans. I did some quick Wiki research on their countries and we had a great time talking about their homelands at the party.
I went to a business meeting in Florida with the people from Florida’s Natural Orange Juice and did some research on their company. It was very interesting in many ways; I found that farmers owned the company (CO-OP) but they left all marketing and sales to a separate organization. Their expertise was in farming not selling their product. Anyhow, they loved talking with me about their company and for years made sure I was invited to any social gatherings they gave even though I wasn’t specifically involved with their account anymore.
The bottom line is you won’t be as effective as you should be if you don’t do some homework. My wife Maggie will sometimes say she feels uncomfortable trying to come up with things to say when we get together with other people. I always remind her that she doesn’t need to worry about saying much just ask people questions and they’ll take it from there.
Ø Learn to steer conversations back to the other person. It’s easy sometimes to go down a rabbit hole when you’re telling a particular story but do your best to get the other person talking again. People just don’t have the attention span they did ten years ago so you lessen negative exposure the less you talk.
Ø There are all kinds of awesome quotes available on-line about a variety of topics. On a business front I was always dealing with people who would fly in to see us in our corporate office so how about this for an example... “You know the oxygen masks on airplanes? I don't think there's really any oxygen. I think they're just to muffle the screams.” The subject of dogs came up quite frequently: “You can trust your dog to guard your house but never trust your dog to guard your sandwich.” I was always going out to dinner with clients: “I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants.”
Last one because it just happened today. The teenage boy (Austen), who mows my lawn, is a baseball Phenom who will end up with a college scholarship next year. Before he left I gave him a funny quote (I researched funny baseball quotes), and that is: “Why have people for decades sing: ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ when they’re already there?” He loved it. I don’t like corny jokes but I do like to bring humor through relevant and funny quotes and this easily builds rapport; besides I’m a terrible joke teller.
Ø Most people who have families don’t mind at all talking about them it’s one of the best ways to build rapport as it’s a matter of the heart. If you’re talking to someone who has children, work in asking their ages and names. Find out if they play sports. Be careful about asking things like if they’re married or where they went to college. You don’t want to draw out anything negative like she’s divorced and/or didn’t go to college.
Play it safe and uncover the positives someone would want to share and not set yourself up for anything that could deflate the rapport you’re trying to build. Attorneys like to say if you ask a sensitive question you better already know the answer. In other words if you know she went to a particular college then ask away…if you don’t you’re taking a risk.
Ø If you’re talking to someone pay attention. At work we tried to stay focused on our conversations and not let people passing by in the hallway interrupt our talks; it was a conscious effort by everyone. It’s rude to look around while someone is talking to you. When you pay attention you pay respect which of course is a great way to build rapport.
Ø We all know it’s the little things that matter. One of our clients (Tammy), had a baby girl and her name is Olivia. I was on a business trip and came across an adorable diaper bag with the name Olivia on it. I bought it and had it sent to Tammy’s office. She called me immediately all excited and so thankful for what I did; it certainly helped build a huge amount of rapport with her but I didn’t do it for that purpose as I thought the world of her; regardless of my intent the end result was greater rapport.
I’d notes for different people at work…such a simple thing. One time I left a note for our office manager in her in-box and all it said was: “You’re awesome!” So simple and she absolutely loved it. I sent a customer service representative (Donna), a letter who was with one of the company’s we dealt with, thanking her for the extraordinary job she was doing in servicing us saying she was the best I’d ever seen. Years later I was talking to one of their account executives and he told me she still had my letter on the wall of her cubicle. Once again I didn’t do this to intentionally build rapport I just did the right thing and it was a byproduct. It doesn’t take much and there are hundreds of things you can do to show people you care. Don’t forget “build” rapport is an action word.
Ø Some things that can make you lose rapport are: complaining, judging, being negative, gossiping, talking politics (unless you already know their view and it fits your own), speaking monotone etc. By the way monotone is an offspring of monotonous...boring! You need to pay attention to hear if you fluctuate your voice; basically does your voice match what you’re talking about? Some people communicate better with others due more to how they say things than what they’re saying.
I had to share a lot because there’s a lot to this topic. Knowing how to build rapport will completely change your life in a positive way. It always feels great when other people like to be around you. It also feels great to proactively look for ways to make people feel appreciated…let’s face it life is tough so when we do things to make people happy we stand out in a very good way. I hope you’ll at least try some of these ideas because it won’t take long for you to see the results.
The key here is to “build” rapport, it’s an action word. The actions are easy to do it just takes motivating yourself enough to make it happen. I believe it was Zig Ziglar who said: “The problem with things that are easy to do is that they’re also easy not to do” very profound. If you’re already great at building rapport with other people then that’s good but if you’re not, this is your chance to change your life by having better relationships with everyone you want. Start building.