“Good conversation is the access point for the relationships we so deeply desire.”
~ Michael Hyatt, This Is Your Life podcast
When we’re developing our businesses, we learn the hard skills like math, accounting, or budgeting, but it’s equally important to develop the soft skills too. These might include leadership, self-control, and communication. Today I want to focus on how to build rapport with your employees, your business associates, your clients, your vendors—with all those you encounter on a day-to-day basis and on whom your business depends. This is a soft skill that can have a huge impact on your success.
I’m surprised how many people don’t realize that their ability to build rapport involves a skill set that can be learned, even if it’s not something that comes naturally to them. You may not feel comfortable talking to others, for instance, but when you’re building a business, you need to learn to do it, and do it the right way.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you interact with others. They will help you become a master at building rapport:
- Listen with an ear for helping the other person. When they sense you are interested in their well-being, it changes the dynamic. Offer to help or provide information, even when you don’t have anything to gain from it.
- Suspend your ego. Give them a chance to tell you about themselves. After all, it’s usually their favorite topic.
- Remember quid pro quo. This is a balance to #2, because it’s important to share a little bit of you too. It should be done in response to what they’ve said and should not be an attempt to negate or top what they have said.
- Be sensitive to nonverbal cues and body language. You don’t want to put the other person on the defensive with your stance or how close you are to them. Even your handshake is important, because it shouldn’t last too long or be too firm. Be careful not to display inappropriate or unintended intimacy. If you’re with someone from a different country, be aware of cultural differences too.
- Slow down. This is one I have to remember myself, because I get enthusiastic and speak rapidly sometimes. When you’re saying something you really want people to listen to, you should slow down and lower your voice to hold their attention.
- Validate the other person through your interest and thoughtfulness. Repeat what they say—it shows them you’ve been listening. You can validate someone’s opinion even when you don’t agree with him or her. What they most want is to be heard.
- Ask How, When, or Why. These are open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a Yes or No, so it ensures the other person will engage in a substantive conversation. It helps them open up and express themselves, and when you listen to them, they feel valued.
- Give unexpected gifts. This doesn’t relate to having conversations, but it’s like magic for building rapport. When you surprise someone with a gift out of the blue (e.g., “I saw this and thought of you.”), it is evidence that you care about them and are interested in them.
- Establish artificial time constraints. This is a great tip when you’re uncomfortable with long conversations or simply pressed for time. Just set some parameters by saying something like, “I’ve got to go in a few minutes…” This allows you to get in and get out of the conversation more easily.
- Always try to be your most authentic self. Don’t put up a façade. Remember the difference between shallow schmoozing and real interaction. Be transparent. When you genuinely are interested in others, it shows, and as they begin to understand this, you will be building trust and rapport.
The mindset behind all these tips can be summed up in the wonderful words of the late Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
When you can learn how to make people feel seen, heard, and cared for, you can be sure you’ve learned how to build rapport.