Over the next three weeks I’m going to address Relationship Building. This week’s focus is on Reading others and Building Rapport. While the majority of people can learn the nuts and bolts of relationship building, focusing on some basic techniques that can be learned is a must. The main ones, in no particular order, are:
- Read: “Read” people well.
- Rapport: Develop rapport with others.
- Finesse: Have with finesse; i.e. handle conversations and activities in a cordial manner.
- Conflict Resolution: Resolve negative issues and conflicts without too much friction.
- Support Co-Op: Gain the support and cooperation in working towards a common goal.
Reading People: All about Body Language Body language is the meaning behind the words or the “unspoken” language. Surprisingly, studies show that only up to an estimated 10 percent of our communication is verbal. The majority of the rest of communication is unspoken. This unspoken language isn’t rocket science. However, there are some generalizations or basic interpretations that can be applied to help with the understanding or translating of these unspoken meanings. Here are some basics below:
- Smile – People like warm smiles. Think of a heartfelt warm-fussy, maybe your favorite pet, and smile.
- Eyes - -If you don’t look someone in the eyes while speaking, this can be interpreted as dishonesty or hiding something. Likewise, shifting eye movement or rapid changing of focus/direction can translate similarly. If more than one person is present in a group, look each person in the eye as you speak, slowly turning to face the next person and acknowledge him or her with eye contact as well. Continue on so that each person has felt your warm, trusting glance. Some suggest beginning with one person and moving clockwise around the group so that no one is missed, and so that you are not darting around, seemingly glaring at people.
- Attention Span / Attitude – Other people can tell what type attitude you have by your attention span. If you quickly lose focus of the other person and what is being said, and if your attention span wanders, this shows through and makes you seem disinterested, bored, possibly even uncaring.
- Attention Direction – If you sit or stand so that you are blocking another in the party, say someone is behind you, this can be interpreted as rude or thoughtless. So be sure to turn so that everyone is included in the conversation or angle of view, or turn gently, at ease and slowly, while talking, so that everyone is incorporated, recognized and involved in the conversation. Again some suggest the clockwise movement when working a group.
- Arms Folded / Legs Crossed– This can be seen as defensive or an end to the conversation. So have arms hang freely or hold a glass of water, a business card or note taking instruments while communicating with others. Be open with open arms. Note: If you need to cross legs, cross at your ankles and not your knees. Sitting tightly folded up says that you are closed to communications.
- Head Shaking – This is fairly accurate. If people are shaking their heads while you speak, they are in agreement. If they are shaking, “no,” disagreement reigns in their minds.
- Space / Distance – On the whole, people like their own personal body space. Give people room and keep out of their space. Entering to close can be intrusive and viewed as aggressive.
- Leaning – Sitting or standing, leaning is viewed as interest. In other words, an interested listener leans toward the speaker.
While you are with others, note how their bodies read. If a person suddenly folds his arms across his chest and begins shaking his head “no,” you’ve probably lost him. Try taking a step back and picking up where the conversation began. It’s all about strategic planning! Developing Rapport Now let’s take a quick peak at the basics of developing rapport with others. In a nutshell, what it takes is to ask questions, have a positive open attitude, encourage an open exchange of communications (both verbal and unspoken), listen to verbal and unspoken communications and share positive feedback. Here are a few details on each step:
- Ask Questions – Building report is similar to interviewing someone for a job opening or it can be like a reporter seeking information for an article. Relax and get to know the other person with a goal of finding common ground or things of interest. You can begin by simply commenting on the other person’s choice of attire, if in person, or about their profile, if online, and following up with related questions. For example, in person, you could compliment the other person on their color choice and or maybe a pin, ring or other piece of jewelry and ask where it came from. In online communications, you could compliment the other person’s background, smile or mention that the communication style seems relaxed and ask if he or she writes a lot. Then basically follow up, steering clear of topics that could entice or cause arguing, while gradually leading the person to common ground you’d like to discuss.
- Attitude – Have a positive attitude and leave social labels at home. Many people can tell instantly if you have a negative attitude or if you feel superior. So treat other people as you would like to be treated. And give each person a chance.
- Open Exchange – Do encourage others to share with you. Some people are shy, scared or inexperienced in communicating and welcome an opportunity to share. So invite an exchange with both body language and verbal communication. Face the other person with your arms open, eyes looking into theirs gently (not glaring or staring), and encourage a conversation with a warm smile.
- Listen – Be an active listener. Don’t focus your thoughts on what YOU will say next. Listen to what the other person is saying and take your clues from there, while also noting the body language. For example, if the other person folds his arms and sounds upset, you may need to change the subject or let him have some space and distance; maybe even try approaching him later on and excusing yourself to go make a phone call. On the other hand, if the other person is leaning towards you, following your every word and communicating with your as if you were old friends, YES! You’ve built rapport!
- Share – People like compliments. So hand them out freely without over doing it. Leaving a nice part of yourself is like a compliment. This will leave a good memory for the other person to recall – numerous times. That’s good rapport. But do be sincere! False compliments aren’t easily disguised.
We will review Finesse and Conflict Resolution next week. Practice in the mirror first and when you attend your next meeting or social gathering, put these to work. Start building relationships! Be alert to possible problem areas, and take action to improve your life.