3 Key Ways to Increase Your Influence & Build Rapport
Establishing common ground, or building rapport, with someone is often promoted as the best way to connect with someone. That may be true, but exactly what that means and how you go about it is very seldom actually mentioned.
I’ve attended a lot of seminars and heard many lessons on communication. Many of those lessons focus on how to establish common ground and rapport with someone. I’ve heard an incredible spectrum of “secrets” to building rapport, from mirroring body language to subconsciously communicating “I’m like you, so it’s okay to like me.”
None of that is bad, but I think it often focuses on the things to do instead of how to be. There’s a huge difference. We should shift from trying to connect with someone, so they will like us, to trying to connect with someone because we care about them.
“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” ~Rollo May
In his book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John C. Maxwell shares three questions everyone is consciously or unconsciously asking when they meet you: “Do you care for me? Can you help me? Can I trust you?”
If the answer to just one of those questions is no or if the person feels like the answer is no, it will be very difficult to form a connection and communicate effectively. It’s much like trying to get electricity to flow through a power cord – if the cord isn’t plugged in or isn’t plugged in completely, the electricity either won’t flow or won’t flow through well. People won’t always remember the words you use, what you say, or what you do, but they will always remember how you make them feel.
When you first meet someone, the first step in establishing common ground is building trust in the relationship. You start building trust or creating distrust immediately when you meet someone, interact with them, or are simply around them.
In order to build trust, you must demonstrate integrity, credibility, and consistency in your words and actions. Your words and actions should be in alignment with what you tell others your values are.
For example, if you have lunch with someone and they are rude to the waiter or waitress, it will tell you everything you need to know about their character. We are all nice to the people we need something from. But, how we treat those people who can do nothing for us demonstrates whether we truly have a heart that values people.
Beyond being consistent and caring, the next step in building the relationship is establishing common ground. Take the time to learn about the other person and demonstrate your interest in them. If nothing else, you will have established common ground because you’re interested in the other person. And, they’re interested in themselves too.
Sometimes, it’s easy to find common ground through a mutual friend or shared experience. Sometimes, it’s not easy, and you must ask more about the other person to learn more. Then, listen to the answers. If you still struggle to find common ground, connect by talking about something current or global that interests almost everyone.
Barriers to finding common ground include a lack of humility, a lack of caring, a lack of respect, or a lack of understanding.
Don’t assume anything when you are connecting with other people. Each of us carries a different perspective of the world – we see the world as we are, not as it is. Because we all have different experiences in life, we will see situations differently. Terry Felber says, “If you can learn to pinpoint how those around you experience the world, and really try to experience the same world they do, you’ll be amazed at how effective your communication will become.”
Once you have listened and established some common ground, share something relevant about yourself from your experience, relationships, successes, ability, or insights that demonstrate who you are as a person. We’ll get into the dialogue a little more in the next chapter.
Here are three keys to building rapport:
1) Establish common ground or mutual experience. This requires asking key questions (covered in depth in my book, Straight Talk) and listening to the answers. Make sure to fully listen to the answers before moving on.
2) Don’t make assumptions about the other person. We all tend to make assumptions, but those assumptions often don’t serve us well. We make snap judgments about someone based on how they dress, what they drive, how they talk, or even what they look like. Be careful to base your opinions of someone on their character, actions, and values, instead of superficial appearance.
3) Share interesting or relevant facts about you as a person. The key here is “interesting or relevant.” Make sure the time, situation, and place are appropriate for what you want to share and be careful not to monopolize the conversation by talking about yourself.