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Building Rapport

A powerful tool for influence and persuasion

Assertiveness is an essential quality for success, in business and in life, and can be difference between living the life you want and a life of compromise. But it can be difficult to get right: come on too strong and you risk tipping over into aggression, whether real or perceived by the person on the receiving end. Come on too weak and you don’t get your message across.

Maybe you have colleagues who seem to just ‘get’ what you’re saying and others where you may as well be speaking a foreign language? Do you find yourself on endless conference calls, desperately trying to understand what the other people are saying or struggling to get your point across?

The ability to build rapport and form connections with a variety of people is crucial for success and particularly important when working with people from different cultures. It’s not enough to only work with people we get on with, if we want to have a lasting impact and work effectively with others, it’s essential to learn the skills of rapport.

When we meet someone for the first time, we are naturally and subconsciously assessing them – and they are doing the same with us. The outcome of the assessment could be positive or negative, but it’s worth considering: “What would they say about me if I was not in the room?”.

In previous blogs, I have discussed the importance of connection, and how creating authentic connections with teams, stakeholders, colleagues and clients is one of the most important things you can do to enhance your leadership potential.

Rapport is key to building strong connections and is often the reason why people choose to say ‘yes’ to what you’re proposing, recommend you to others and choose to work with you rather than your competitors.

So, what are the skills to creating rapport, how does this link to gravitas and how do you make ‘it’ happen, in often limited time, given the diverse range of people you meet?

Although many people believe that rapport is about remembering to talk about someone’s dog, children or weekend and matching their body language, rapport goes much deeper than this. It is, in fact, the ability to connect in a way that creates an environment of shared trust and understanding; an ability to appreciate and accept another’s point of view.

In this blog, we’re going to look at two approaches you can take to build rapport with anyone: firstly by creating the right mindset and secondly by adapting your communication style in a way that still feels authentic to you.

Your Mindset

Have you ever been in a situation where the person you’re speaking with will not stop talking? Or maybe what they’re saying just doesn’t interest you, and you lose interest five minutes after they started? Although we’ve all been there, that mindset will, unfortunately, hinder your rapport building. Having a connection with someone isn’t always easy. Having an authentic connection with someone is even harder.

The first step is to develop an open mindset, one that is genuinely curious about the other person’s world. Your aim should be to see what they see, hear and feel, and understand why they experience it that way.

Alongside an attitude of openness comes one of generosity – this can be as simple as paying a heartfelt compliment, giving a valuable piece of advice or recommending a book or film you think they’ll enjoy. And it’s amazing how willing people are to reciprocate.

Linked to generosity is the decision to put to one side, for a while, your own agenda, purpose, goals, targets and objectives. In emptying your mind you will be free to truly understanding their needs and wants – insights which are incredibly valuable whether building a connection, motivating a team or getting to know a prospective client. You will then be able to find solutions that are beneficial to you both.

Communication Style

As well as adopting an open mindset, for genuine rapport, it’s important to achieve a balance between listening and talking.

First, listen…

As soon as someone else starts talking, focus all your attention on them. Do not interrupt with your own opinion. Be patient. Take the time they would hopefully give you, to listen. And wait your turn. You will be surprised by how much people will respect you if you just listen to them.

When people are listened to, they relax and share more of their authentic self. This is exactly what you are looking for. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Ask questions to clarify your understanding. Stay ‘switched on’ and become a part of the conversation rather than taking over. Knowing that you’ve been heard by someone is a real gift.

Then talk…

Now it’s your turn, but it’s important to remember that enriching conversations are a dialogue, not a monologue and therefore all about creating touch points that trigger and enliven a fulfilling conversation.

You can think about these touch points as though they were layers in an iceberg, with the surface layer representing the most accessible and safest topics and the deeper layers representing the thoughts and feelings hidden below the surface.

Because every person is different, it’s important to have a flexible approach to a conversation, with ‘scene setting’ topics moving at their pace to deeper conversations, where inner thoughts, values and vulnerabilities can be shared.

Non-verbal touchpoints will also build rapport. Eye contact, smiling and hand gestures are subtle signs that show you are paying attention to what someone is saying and are involved in the conversation.

The ability to build rapport may not be the most obvious route to leading with gravitas and yet, it is integral. When it comes to lasting impact and influence, who you are and how much you share communicates far more eloquently than what you say or do. In choosing to reach out and connect with a broad spectrum of people, you will begin to explore different facets of yourself that you may not have recognised before, broadening out your horizons and opportunities in the process.

If you are interested to learn more about rapport and how you can be building yourself and those around you, get my book Leading with Gravitas, and find the direction you need. Become the best leader you can possibly be and grow your connections and networks. If you are more interested in a hands-on approach, join me for a Gravitas Masterclass and let’s build up your leadership potential.

Antoinette Dale Henderson

The Gravitas Coach

Antoinette is an executive coach, keynote speaker and two-time author with over 25 years’ experience in leadership communications, including 16 years holding senior positions in some of the world’s top PR agencies.

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To discuss how Antoinette and her team can accelerate your success, book a call now!

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