African Business School — Rapport, 5 ways to help build it and get things done
If you are going to get things done you have to build rapport because “People have one thing in common: they are all different “~ Robert Zend. Rapport is defined as “a positive or close relationship between people that often involves mutual trust, understanding and attention ”~ Business Dictionary.
It is derived from the fifteenth-century French word rapporter, meaning the sound of gunfire as it echoes back to you. It is about a relationship of, giving out and getting back in equal balance. Our Elders often say “If you cannot make a man think as you do, make him think as you do” this way you get things done.
Without rapport, no matter what else you have done, learned or prepared, you are far less likely to succeed. Your ability to build rapport will give you a powerful edge, a better chance of achieving your goals and the kind of confidence that will take you wherever you want to go.
When your relationship reflects the following, a mind that never minds, a heart that never hurts, a brain that never drains, a touch that never pains, a relationship that never ends, then you have arrived at a state of perfect rapport. Like any relationship it is journey that has to be travelled on to experience it. Here’s 5 ways to help build it and get things done;
1. Pay attention. It is hard especially when you think the other person just doesn’t get it. It means being willing to take in and understand what the person is saying, without waiting to get your own point across or interject. Biting your lip in such a manner that you continue to smile and nod. To do this always look for the positive in what the other person is saying, shape and build your conversation around that. If the person is so boring that you are dosing off in the discussion, get up move around or change your posture. Any form of physical movement shakes the boredom and stimulates the brain to focus. If you fail to pay attention the other party will reciprocate and the opportunity to establish common ground is lost. Paying attention takes effort, so if you’re tired or not in a position to give 100%, say so and arrange to engage another time. Giving someone else your attention is a way of treating them, and yourself, with real respect. They will know whether you are genuine and best still it cannot be faked. The worst thing and greatest disrespect you can do is to divert your attention to your mobile phone during a discussion, ignoring the physical contact meeting in favor of a virtual.
2. Learn to mirror. When you’re comfortable in someone’s company you will adopt a similar body position or posture to theirs. If they’re sitting and you’re standing you might feel awkward, so you sit, and vice versa. Think of mirroring as a dance where your body language reflects that of the person with whom you are engaging. If they have their head tilted slightly to one side you reciprocate subconsciously sometimes instinctively.
Mirroring is all about body language, that vital exchange of signals using postures and gestures, we send out to the other person. When you mirror effectively it will allow communication to flow far better and the other person won’t even be aware that you are putting in conscious effort. They will simply feel that you are on a similar wavelength and will enjoy the discussion and more likely agree to execute as discussed.
3. Match your voice. Recall a kindergarten conversation where you shared a secret with your best friend in a hushed voice with your hand covering your mouth and your bestie responding in the same way. Imagine trying to do the same thing in a loud voice and the message and context is completely lost. If someone speaks softly to you, then naturally you will probably lower the level of your own voice. In the same way, if someone is loud you may become louder, let alone if they start shouting, our instinct is usually to shout back. It is important to understand that gestures and body language we use support our tone of voice.
Witnessing a minor car accident in Lagos I saw both drivers get out and engage in what could best be described as a shouting match of monumental proportions. Only to end 30 seconds later with both having “spoken English” at mega decibels and agreeing to part ways having both “won” the argument they were right. Public face was saved by matching the others tone of voice. “If you reason the way others reason, you will react the way they do”~ African Proverb Failing to do so may lead to a complete disconnect with a completely different outcome.
4. Pacing and leading is the ability to move a person gently from one state of mind to another, using our body language, gestures and tone of voice establishing the desired position. You do this by mirroring the body language and tone of voice. If the person is angry or upset, you acknowledge what is important to them first by moderating your voice and changing your gestures and posture. Having established that it is then possible to progress the conversation in the direction you intended.
Imagine walking into your boss’s office and he is having a bad day and decides to take it out on you. First is to acknowledge the elements of the bad day without being patronizing and allow him to blow off some steam, then gently bring him around to the matter at hand. Pacing shows that you understand and respect his current state of mind. In this way you can establish rapport before subtly leading them to a different state. You have to pace first before you lead. Do it the other way and communication goes flying out the window. Our elders say “If nakedness came to give you advice on fashion, look first at what his wearing”.
5. Choose your words so that you get your message into the persons heart and not just his head. The head has to process to many hard, rational issues, whereas the heart is a reservoir of memories which are often recalled. Learn to express yourself in the language, acronyms and words of the other person.
Ask your teenage children, they will very quickly remind you of how “olden days” your vocabulary is regardless to say it is the Queens English. Story telling is the most powerful way to personify the words and breakdown the message and very quickly establish the bonds that matter. The most effective Tweets I ever did all related to things I did or experienced when I was growing up. This resonated with my audience as they could also relate to the same. It’s all about choice of vocabulary to best suit the person you are speaking to.
If you are in any doubt try talking to a feisty 4 year old making childlike noises and pronunciations and he innocently turns to his mother and asks her whether or not you are a moron!
Rapport is that connection between two people that makes things run smoothly, work well and move forward and is more valuable than anything else you can have.
Nothing is more rewarding and gratifying than having rapport with people who matter most to you. Of course our elders worked it long ago and said “One must tell a farmer well done first, before asking for a piece of yam” These 5 building blocks will be your greatest ally and give you the advantage when you need it most.