“All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to,
those people they know, like and trust.” Bob Burg
Experts agree that establishing rapport is a critical component to networking effectively. Having rapport with someone helps to establish the ‘trust’ portion of the know, like, and trust factor in business relationships.
Establishing rapport with a new connection comes easily to some, yet is more difficult, or impossible, for others. I like to describe rapport as that “click” factor. You meet someone for the first time and by the end of the conversation, you realize you completely enjoy and have an indescribable kinship with them.
How does this happen?
Building rapport can be instinctive to some, but for most of us, it is a learned skill and understanding some basics about how you interact with others can be the difference in how quickly you establish rapport or whether you establish it at all.
Here are 8 conscious activities in which even we introverts can engage to increase our ability to build rapport quickly with someone we’ve just met at a networking event.
- Touch. When you shake hands, a second after you join right hands, very briefly touch your left hand to the back of their right hand that you’re shaking. This is a split second interaction and then you go back to shaking with your right hand. Mind you, this is not the “double handshake” from the olden days. And the person won’t necessarily notice this touch to the top of their hand but it adds an element of sincerity and will serve to put the other person at ease and make them feel comforted. A touch to their arm or shoulder during your conversation is also a great rapport building activity.
- Use their name. Everyone loves to hear their own name. Find simple ways to incorporate their name in the conversation. “It’s very nice to meet you, Bob,” “That sounds fantastic, Bob,” or “It was lovely chatting with you, Bob. Have a great day.”
- Maintain eye contact. Keeping your eyes on them from the moment you shake hands, and throughout your conversation, is a necessity. It helps them feel heard by you and helps you listen attentively. There’s nothing worse than talking to someone whose eyes are darting around the room and perhaps even looking past you. Most of your eye contact should be directly with their eyes otherwise, they could notice you looking at their hair or nose and will wonder if something is amiss.
- Listen actively and attentively. Be present and truly soak in what they are saying. Listen with your heart and take a genuine interest in what they have to say. The next time you see them, remember to ask about any points they shared with you. If they mentioned they were going on vacation, try to remember to ask them how their trip was the next time you see them.
- Keep the attention on them. People love to talk and share about themselves. There is always a follow up question you can ask in response to what they’ve just shared with you and in an effort to learn more about them. This leads into my next point.
- Find common ground. Learning that you have similar interests is one of the leading ways to build rapport quickly. This means you cannot be afraid to be authentic and share a little bit about your personal side. Perhaps you have children the same age or share a love of dogs or volunteering. Finding commonality can get any conversation off and running in a warm and fun direction.
- Match and mirror. This is an age-old practice which means physically or verbally complementing the other person. If they are sitting forward, you sit forward. If they lean back, wait a moment and lean back too. If they scratch their nose, you scratch your nose (ok just kidding – checking to see if you’re awake). If they speak slowly, adjust your speech to their pace. If they speak quickly while you speak slooowwwwwly and thoughtfully, it can be irritating to the fast talker. Sometimes, there is no way to establish rapport if speech patterns are notably different and that’s ok. You won’t, nor do you need to, establish rapport with everyone.
- Smile and be happy. Nothing makes someone feel better than seeing you smile. If they are having a bad day, you may very well turn their day around with your smile and happy disposition. Avoid bringing up negative or stressful topics (bad traffic, illness, etc.) and focus instead on keeping the conversation positive and light.
While professionals often understand the importance of rapport, many struggle to establish it. By incorporating and becoming proficient in just a few activities above, you will notice your increased ability to establish rapport more quickly and with more people you are meeting for the first time.
© 2014 CERTUS™ Professional Network / Behind The Moon, Inc. All rights reserved.
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