How many times have you said after an interview with a prospect, “We just clicked.”
There are so many occasions in business or personal life when the number one goal is establishing rapport – that elusive and invaluable sense that, yes, we clicked. It is the start of a relationship and has a lot to do with how that relationship blossoms in the future, whether relating to a customer, a new hire, or a conference room full of your directors. It is probably even the goal on a first date.
There are some general rules of engagement that ramp up the possibility that you will create a sense of rapport. For heaven’s sake let yourself be present authentically, and speak the truth, even if the truth is “I don’t know.” The essential gift is your attention, and nearly everyone knows when you offer that gift, or when you’re pretending to be attentive. Needless to say, cell phones are put away.
Another tip is to listen more than you talk. (How we extroverts need to be mindful of this!)
Also, it is important to listen with an open mind, not a voting mind. Voting minds are busy internally thinking “I agree” or “I disagree.” When you are listening with an open mind, you honestly want to know what the person means, rather than judging whether his or her views are right or wrong in your estimation.
Tactfully and early on draw your boundaries. It is respectful to explain your situation rather than be distracted with your own self-talk. For instance, if you are thinking, “Will I get out of here in time for my next appointment?” Tactfully speak your truth. “I really want to hear all of your concerns, and I only have 15 minutes free this morning. Should we reschedule or use this time just to introduce the topic?”
I mentioned cell phones above. They should not even be visible. Still, there will be occasions when you must receive a call. Take care of this in the boundary setting. “I’m awaiting a call from my child’s doctor, so I’ll leave my phone on for that call only.” No ring tones though, no matter how clever they may be.
It helps to lead the conversation to common ground, especially if notes of contention arise. There is always common ground if you think about it. “We both want the customer to be very satisfied with this project.” Any statement can be met with an honest and respectful comment, if only “Hmm, that’s an interesting thought.” This sort of response preserves your dignity and keeps open the possibility of rapport. You can exhibit comfort when questioning or opposing an idea, rather than becoming aggressive and threatened. If this is a new behavior for you, practice with your kids – especially if they are teenagers.
Connect comments with “and” instead of “but.” “I understand how busy you are this time of year…and it is extremely important that we meet this deadline.” You might add, “What can I do to help?” Once we inject the word “but,” the first part of the sentence fades away. “You look great today…but what is that on your tie, a bit of soup?”
In any context where you want to develop rapport, take time to review agreements on specific points, including next steps. Check the clarity on the division of responsibility if appropriate. “I agreed to send an email to all senior managers, and I believe you are to arrange for a speaker for our February team meeting.”
That feeling of “clicking” is a mixture of many ingredients, and certainly adds elegance to the day. I hope you experience it often in the year ahead.
Jo Gorissen is a certified transition coach and a former Milwaukee area resident. Her website is www.coachingconbrio.com and she can be reached at (414) 305-3459.