What’s going on Trainwrecks? Communicating with others is not only one of the most important skills we can develop as human beings, it’s also one the least discussed topics in our education. The ability to participate in a conversation with someone that is engaging relies heavily on being able to empathize with the person we are speaking with. Today I’d like to discuss the concept of how we build rapport with another person and why it can be so powerful. Finally, I illustrate an example of how we can immediately put this concept into practice.
Building Rapport Building Rapport Building Rapport With Someone
When we participate in a conversation with others, we often get excited about what it is we would like to say. I mean why not? Communicating our ideas and desires is what having a conversation is all about right? The honest answer to that is: “kind of.”
You see, when we participate in a conversation there is usually at least two people present and both individuals have entered that conversation for their own individual reasons that might not even be known to the person they are speaking with. In order for a conversation to flow, ideas must be exchanged, received and acknowledged.
There are several techniques that can be utilized for creating and maintaining rapport which will be discussed in a moment but first let’s understand there are differences between the ways we communicate. These differences in communication can vary, largely depending on cultural values so before we go further I would like to point out that we likely wouldn’t communicate with another culture the same way we communicate with our own culture. For example, Americans are typically very outspoken and aggressive in communication whereas many Asian cultures place higher value on humility and more reserved communications (Pogosyan, 2019).
A universal understanding nearly everyone on the face of this planet can agree with is that men and women communicate and build rapport with each other in distinctly different ways. Typically, Men like to discuss how something works, how it can be fixed and how problems can be avoided in the future through regular maintenance of the solution aimed at the problem. Women however, often describe the way something is making them feel, focusing more on sharing the experience with another person rather than immediately trying to search for a solution.
The immediate and most important takeaway from this is that not only do men and women often not understand each other, but we even speak different languages when you think about it.
And that is the very reason why learning how to effectively communicate with another person is so powerful. Men often perceive a conversation or a scenario as something that can mechanically be fixed or manipulated in a purely logical manner.
Women have a tendency to view the emotional investment in a conversation or a scenario and how those emotional indications will have an impact in the future. Researchers theorize women are inherently more emotionally in-tune because of their natural role as nurturers.
For further reading on the differences between men and women, I highly recommend the book Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus by Dr. John Gray.
When we participate in a conversation, we have a tendency to listen with the intent of replying, rather than listening with the intent of receiving. What I mean by this is, in a typical situation we often think of what we would like to say to another person in a conversation and will sometimes even cut another person off to be heard. What essentially is happening is we sometimes either don’t feel important enough or get too excited in a conversation, which elicits a desire to share more of what is on our mind. The problem with this action is that it feels great to talk about ourselves and that often causes us to fail to realize that others do not share that same feeling. When we hear others talking we unconsciously engage in a competition to be the most important person in the conversation. Trainwrecks, this is completely normal and once we pay attention to what is happening, something that can be adjusted.
Learning to empathize with another person is a valuable tool we can learn to improve the way we communicate. First, let’s understand empathy is the ability to identify with another person’s frame of reference or their emotional state. This can be seen as “putting yourself in another person’s shoes.” Empathizing with another person is simply designing our responses to either establish or maintain emotional congruence and understanding with another person.
Below are some simple ways to establish and maintain congruence with someone through empathy
Pacing & leading. In pacing and leading, we can make the assumption of a subject mean whatever we want it to mean, but preferably what we know the other person prefers something to mean. For example, when we speak to a friend who is heavily involved in politics, we can choose to direct our energies in a positive manner despite any negative political diatribe we may hear. We can do this by acknowledging the way another person feels about a topic and why they feel that way about it WITHOUT directly agreeing or disagreeing. Now this does not mean we should or will agree with the other person, only that we are acknowledging not only what their perspective is, but why their perspective is that way. We acknowledge another person’s perspective by what is known as active listening (Cuncic, 2019). Active listening is just that, listening with the intent of receiving another person’s perspective without the intent of an immediate response.
Mirroring. The concept of mirroring another person is essentially when we unconsciously adjust our actions and behaviors to a manner similar with another person. An example of mirroring is when two people engaged in an argument physically point fingers at each other. It is often difficult not to point a finger back at someone when it is pointed at us regardless of our emotional state, let alone during an argument. I challenge you to try this out right now. Do not say anything, just point your finger at someone and observe their reaction. Chances are, they will point back at you.
Give the other person primary interest. When we participate in a conversation, we want people to feel as if we are on an adventure together. One technique that often provides good results is to be more interested in the person we speaking to than they are in us. Whether we genuinely feel the other person is a step above or below ourselves does not matter, in fact it can work against us to have that opinion. Instead, try being more interested in the other person than we are trying to be interesting to them. This often elevates the other person’s perception of us because it feels good to not only say what is on our mind but it feels even better when we realize that other person has received and wholly comprehends what we have just said (Civico, 2015). A great way to show we understand what the other person has said is to repeat back what we have heard but in a slightly different way. This shows we have received another person’s information well enough to paraphrase it back to them. The next time we are speaking to our significant other, try paraphrasing back to them something they just said.
The power of silence (STFU). One of the most effective ways to increase rapport with another person is to simply shut our mouths and allow the other person to talk until they are done talking. When we provide the other person an opportunity to explain their position wholly and without interruption, they will often talk themselves through the solution to a problem or become satisfied simply because they have been heard. This is a popular technique utilized in the customer service industry. Often, providing an irritated person a resource to vent to will not only de-escalate them but often promotes the basis for an interpersonal relationship. Sometimes it is in our best interests to simply shut up and let the other person talk for a minute.
How can we immediately put this into practice? It’s easy Trainwrecks, and I promise you will see immediate positive results or your money that you never paid will be returned immediately, I promise.
The next time you reach out to someone that you communicate with regularly, make your primary objective in the conversation to completely understand the other person:
- Don’t make any attempts to transmit our own opinion, just focus solely on the content the other person is delivering to us.
- Try to paint a picture in our own mind of what the other person is describing according to THEIR standards and not ours.
- Make an attempt to repeat back what we have heard in a description as close to theirs as we can without simply repeating them. Please make sure we do not repeat someone word for word in a conversation, because that is often insulting.
Establishing and maintaining rapport can be one of the most important yet overlooked factors of a successful conversation with someone. It is important to try to empathize with a other person to understand where they are coming from and how to understand them best. When we effectively communicate with another person, we create an interpersonal relationship which has the potential to share ideas, de-escalate conflict and even generate billion dollar business deals. They sky really is the limit once we learn to communicate better with others. We can do this!
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Civico, A. (2015) How to Build Rapport: A Powerful Technique. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/turning-point/201504/how-build-rapport-powerful-technique
Cuncic, A. (2019). Practicing Active Listening in Your Daily Conversations. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-active-listening-3024343
Pogosyan, M. (2019). Insights Into Human Nature from Cultural Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-cultures/201905/insights-human-nature-cultural-psychology