6 Useful Tips for Building Business Rapport
We’ve all known that feeling when a new meeting goes smoothly, and you can comfortably say ‘We really connected'.
But it doesn’t happen all the time. When the stakes are high and you want to build that easy rapport with another, what can you do?
Psychologists have identified a host of behaviours that create smooth social interactions. You already know plenty – both consciously and unconsciously. The good news is that you can introduce new ones and take your success rate to a higher level.
Your hello is your first opportunity. Studies show people make decisions about you in the first few seconds. Are you maximising that moment? Before every hello, pause and centre yourself. Choose your style: serious or upbeat? Square your shoulders to the other person, make eye contact and speak to him. Hold that moment. Ask a sincere question, or make a positive statement. Something as simple as ‘I’m so pleased we’re able to meet in person’ will put him at ease. Your attention will make him feel noticed, and the connection cycle will begin.
A little life-hack on greetings: pose a question that should generate a positive answer, and you’ll start the psychological ‘positive cycle’ immediately.
Pay attention to the other person’s style. Adjust yours to hers. If she speaks more deliberately than you, slow down. If her voice is much quieter, soften yours. If she’s a big-gesture, effusive type, up your energy and express more. As you pace her, the two of you will come into sync. This one is also subliminal – and it works.
Research has shown our brains are able to process 400 words per minute, yet our ears only take in 125 words. That’s why you can listen to your client yet think about your lunch plans. But you also know that when you truly listen, your responses are attuned to the other person and the two of you sync naturally.
So how do you do it? We’re back to that key word again: centering. Centre yourself. Every time you feel your thoughts wandering off, pull them back and just give 100% of your attention to what you’re hearing. Consciously think about what she is saying. The more consciously you do this, the stronger your listening habit will become.
4) Acknowledging language
Now that you’re listening really well, you need to show it. Acknowledging language is as simple as ‘I see’, ‘Yes’, ‘I understand’ or ‘You’re right’. But… you must be sincere. If you’re following Tip #3, you’ll be genuinely listening and these responses will be sincere. Vary your word choice because your client doesn’t want to hear a long repetitive litany of ‘OK, OK’. Say ‘good point’ when you genuinely think he made a good point, and ‘I see’ another moment.
5) Common ground
It’s a simple connector: find a common interest and the two of you will be deep in conversation instantly. Take a few extra minutes before your next meeting to research commonalities with this person. That could mean just thinking about all you know of her. A quick look at her LinkedIn profile will show you the markets she’s worked in. A quick text to a mutual colleague could give insights about her outside interests, pet charity or school-age children. That preparation could give you an instant connection during the small talk in your first few seconds.
6) Asking questions
This is the simple connector we don’t use enough. As the other person is speaking and you’re listening well, ask him questions about his content. Use open-ended questions to get him talking more. So instead of ‘Did you go on leave?’, which could generate a simple yes/no answer and leave you in silence again, try ‘How did you enjoy your leave?’. Instead of ‘is the new strategy working?’, try ‘What results are you seeing from the new strategy?’.
The simplest change you can make to strengthen your rapport-building is to heighten your awareness. Just before you meet someone new, stop and ask yourself: What will I do to make the connection? How will I set off the positive cycle from the very first moment?
The answers will come to you naturally the more you practice. You’ll reap the benefits when you feel that ‘click!’ and soon, the whole process will become second nature.
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