Introverts and Extroverts
Many of us are introverted and get edgy when in the company of new people. We simply don’t find it easy to open up and make the small talk that commonly gets a relationship going. We tend to wait for the other person to break the ice, and our body language gets all defensive, which in turn does not encourage the other person to come up with sincere and effective overtures.
Others are extroverted and have an easy-going gait about them. Their body language is inviting, their manner relaxed, and they frequently possess a winning smile which opens all kinds of doors.
You can feel good towards a person like that within minutes of meeting them. You may have much in common or just hit it off based on appearance, voice, mutual friends, humor or any one of many other common bonds. As you exchange stories, you quickly find areas of commonality, binding you further together.
Mirroring the other person’s emotions is another way of building a rapport that many of us experience occasionally. For that to happen, you must listen to the other person and try to put yourself in their shoes before engaging in a conversation. The listening part is important as a confidence builder, telling the other person that you respect their emotions and sympathize with their viewpoints.
If someone is talking about a situation in which they experienced pain, anger or joy, the person who is a natural at connecting and building rapport might unwittingly flex the body or gesticulate in sympathy with the talker, thus using body language as what is known as “posture mirroring.” This gives a degree of comfort to the other person.
Voice and tone
The voice and tone can also be used to mirror an understanding. Thus, if someone raises his or her pitch in excitement over the emotions that they are portraying, the easy-going rapport builder can mimic those vocal inflections and thereby convey agreement. These ways translate into applause when you are in a theatre or listening to a great speaker. If it were fashionable to applaud a new acquaintance as a way of portraying your emotional support, then people would be applauding each other all the time in the streets.
Building rapport is vital in both our daily as well as professional lives. How vital can it be? Pushed to an extreme, an extraordinary and much cited example of rapport can be found in Jay Haley’s book, Uncommon Therapy, about the intervention techniques of the widely acclaimed psychotherapist Milton H. Erickson. Erickson is said to have developed the ability to enter the vision and feelings of his patients and, armed with this rapport, he was able to prescribe effective treatments.
Employers and new hires
Under more normal circumstances however, someone who is clearly at ease building a rapport with people will doubtless attract the attention of prospective employers who are eager for a new hire to get along well with their other employees. With a greater facility for rapport building, the new hire is deemed to be better equipped to build productive connections and promptly take over his or her responsibilities without rocking any boats.
Someone who has a great knack for connecting with strangers can almost intuitively create a sense of trust and togetherness upon meeting one or more people. In sales, that seemingly natural rapport building skill receives quick and measurable rewards. Successful sales people have taken rapport building to new heights, developing the tools and skills to gain the trust and confidence of their prospective buyers. And although we can refer to this ability as “intuitive” or “natural”, it is frequently cultivated and built-up over time.
In addition, the gift of connecting easily with people is by no means restricted to salespeople. People who are naturally endowed, and those who develop the talent, include politicians, business people, managers, venture capitalists, and people in many other walks of life. They all have one trait in common: they are individuals around whom others feel relaxed and understood.
Other rapport building techniques
But what if there aren’t many things in common to form a bond between two people; or between, for example, a CEO of one company and the executives of another in a different culture; or between a great speaker and an audience outside of his or her usual community. When the Chairman of a large corporation like GM is trying to find an executive for a sensitive and key assignment in Japan, chances are he’s not going to find much in common with applying prospects. What the Chairman does however is that he will press hard with alternative rapport building techniques. These can include:
Opening up to the other side with a type of candidness that says to them: “I trust you and am going to tell you some things about me.” This is making sincerity work for you, but it may not be enough, for they may still find nothing they can correlate with following this candid overture. You can then use a technique known as “isopraxism” which calls for you to reflect back emotions, body language and tone of voice in a mimicking -though not exaggerating- way that gives comfort to the other side.
Self-made millionaires often conduct research on the people they are about to meet with the view to proactively find some areas of mutual interest. They believe that there are commonalities between any two people on earth, and it’s just a question of unearthing them. Even when finding out “more” is going beyond Facebook and LinkedIn, they keep at it until they find, or they develop, the thread of a link to serve as an ice breaker and be conducive to a good meeting. It is important, all around, for a top-level meeting to start with some easy banter to make everyone smile and relax.
Extroverted and charismatic people at times do themselves an injustice when they simply don’t know how or when to apply the brakes to their outpouring of emotions. They keep going with the charm offensive until they hit a wall, typically in the form of a challenge or a problem, at which time they come apart. You have to know when to express your individuality in a fun way, and when to turn serious in line with what is going on. For a relationship to move up to the rank of “great”, both sides have to be multifaceted, and the relationship has to find common ground in more than one area.