Stop trying to build rapport!

For years we have been told that the first step to influencing people is to build rapport with them. Salespeople must build rapport with their prospects. Project Managers with their teams. Leaders with their employees.

Over the years, tricks and techniques have got ever more sophisticated. “Watch the football last night” as an opener has been consigned to the rapport-building rubbish bin and has been replaced with mirroring body language, using the same modalities, becoming aware of eye movements, active listening, sneaky chair positioning, reflecting, clarifying, paraphrasing, getting just the right amount of eye contact …..the list goes on. Exhausting!

Now, I am not knocking any of these particularly (although I would say that one of the most annoying people I’ve ever met was a Master Practitioner of NLP, which seems strange to say the least), but a colleague once said to me “If you want to look interested, be interested. And if you’re not interested, then s*d off and find something that does interest you”. In my opinion this is much more practical and effective advice than all the other techniques put together. But there’s more to it than that. Please read on.

From now on I want to use the word connection rather than rapport. For me it indicates something deeper, as well as distancing us from the aforementioned dodgy tricks and techniques.

I firmly believe we are much more willing to listen to and be influenced by people with whom we feel a genuine connection. I also feel that we are unlikely to be manipulated, cajoled, hoodwinked or otherwise led up the garden path by these people. Somehow, almost regardless of the language they use, the eye contact they have or the fact they pick their nose when we do, we instinctively sense they are safe and trustworthy.

But what is it about these people that enables them to achieve such a strong connection, often incredibly quickly, if not instantaneously.

In my view, it’s not what they do, but what they don’t do. They don’t try and make a connection, because they know we are already connected. All humans are. Naturally. It’s the default state. We don’t have to do anything to connect, we simply have to stop doing the things that interfere with the connection. Simples. It really is.

So far so good. Or not, but then those that thought it wasn’t good have probably left the party leaving us to enjoy ourselves.

So what are the things we do that get in the way of a connection. The answer is that we think. You weren’t expecting that were you? Thinking is the biggest block to connecting that there is. If we go into a meeting with the express intention of making a connection to influence, then our mind becomes full of thoughts very quickly. What should I say? How should I be? How am I doing? What should I do or say next? Should I agree with them or challenge them? Do they agree with me? Do they like me? How am I doing now? Will they agree? Will they buy? Should I close yet? And so on and so on. If you’re trying to connect with a mind full of thoughts, you’ll struggle. This can pretty much be said of anything. Those of you who play golf can testify to that.

Instead of over-preparing (clearly sometimes you have to, like for an analysts call!) why not try just turning up with no hidden or personal agenda and really listening. Not just to the words, but to what is behind the words. What the other person is trying to convey. See and experience the person as another human being, the same as you. Trying their best to navigate through life.

When the connection is there, move on to business. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised (actually, I think you’ll be amazed) how much better you connect.

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