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The Invisible Connection

communicationSometimes you meet someone.  Maybe it’s at work.  Maybe it’s outside of work.  And you just connect.  Do you know what I mean?   Even though you may not have met before it’s as if there’s an invisible thread connecting you.

You have things in common.  You nod at the same time.  You have so many similar experiences.  You feel like you can finish each other’s sentences.  You smile.  They smile.  Maybe you’re standing or sitting the same way.  You feel like the person truly understands you.  And you understand them.  Perhaps you even feel like you’ve know each other forever instead of just a few minutes.  You feel connected.  And with that connection comes really good communication.

I know that’s the extreme version.  But you’ll understand what I mean when I say that you feel like you connect naturally to some people and not to others.   I’m not talking about attraction here.   But rather about connection.

With some people it’s all sweetness, light and violins.  With others it’s like someone scratching their nails down a blackboard.  Everything grates.  You can’t seem to ever say the right thing.  They misunderstand you at every turn.  They smile.  You wince.  You just can’t get what they mean.  You have no idea where they’re coming from.  It’s more like symbols crashing and the entire orchestra out of sync.   It’s painful.  It’s uncomfortable.  However loud you yell you just can’t get your point across.  You can’t communicate.

So what makes the difference between the two?  Rapport.  Plain and simple.

You may believe it exists, or you may not.  But there’s no getting away from the fact that you connect more easily with some people than with others.  And when you hit a situation where those finger nails are grating down that ‘no connection’ blackboard you often can’t get yourself out of it.  In fact, it frequently just gets worse and worse.  That’s because building rapport is an unconscious skill.  We’re all born with it.  You’re not even aware of the little things that you’re doing – with your voice, your body and your words – that create these connections.  So when it doesn’t happen naturally you have no idea how to bail yourself out.

But can you learn how to consciously build rapport?  Can you unpick some of the useful stuff, that makes those great connections so great, and maybe use it to make the bad ones a little less bad?  Or even a lot less bad?

Yes, you certainly can.

Rapport is defined from the psychology perspective as a sympathetic or harmonious relationship, or state of mutual understanding, in which the people concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.   You can build rapport face to face, over the phone or even by email.

The basis of rapport is that when people are like each other, they like each other.  It’s about being alike, but NOT necessarily liking the other person.  Don’t worry you’re not going to have to suddenly become best friends with crazy Daisy in the office three doors down!  But perhaps you could use these tips to help get her more engaged in that project which you need her to finish by Friday.

The fundamentals of rapport are based on matching and mirroring one another – it’s like getting into the rhythm of a dance.   Just think of the tango and that harmonious sway of two dance partners almost moving as one.

First there’s the PHYSICAL component if you’re face to face.  Perhaps you can stand the same way or sit in a similar position.  If they smile, smile back.  If they look concerned, maybe you reflect their expression.   We feel alike when someone has facial expressions that reflect ours and when they have gestures that are similar to ours.

Next there’s your VOICE.   You can match the speed at which someone talks.  You can reflect their tone or even pitch of their voice – in your own style of course.  And you can match how loud they speak.  In my old job I used to be called by numerous sales people every week.  I tend to speak very quickly, even from the first hello.  It used to frustrate me if the person on the other end of the line didn’t match that speed and sense of urgency to get their message across.  Too slow and I’d usually hung up before they even finished their opening sentence.

Then there are the WORDS that you use.  If you listen to someone’s speech you can often pick up key words that they like to use repeatedly or little phrases.  You can then reflect back to them at suitable opportunities.  In your words you can also match common experiences and associations.  Perhaps you also match whether they talk about the big picture or minute details.

So next time the sparkle doesn’t sparkle, and the fingers nails start to grate, try these tips out and let me know how you get on.

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