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Three Keys To Establish Rapport
Clients often ask me for tools and techniques to make them more effective in working with people. In a coaching session, whenever we discuss and practice how to handle a particular person or situation, we usually end up recognizing that the connection is the most important thing. Even in the tensest engagement, if we find a way to establish rapport with the other, the rest of the communication will flow from that. Great tools and technique have their place but without rapport they won’t do too much. Here are three keys that I have found help me establish rapport.
Key one: notice what you are afraid of. Any exchange between two human beings involves risk. We may do harm, lose reputation or miss out on opportunity. Something may happen to take us out of our comfort zone where we won’t know what to do. Where there is risk, the natural instinct is to keep distance. Distance gives us perspective so we can map the safest way through. Yet it makes connection harder. Some people engage with avoidance and some with bravado. Either way rapport ain’t going to happen. Take the time to notice what is at risk, for you and for the other person. Once acknowledged, your risks won’t create distance in the same way. You will likely begin to feel appreciation for who they are and for what they are doing in the face of their risks.
Key two: resolve the superior-inferior dynamic. We create separation by upholding ourselves as special. No one has a perfectly undented self-esteem so, to feel good about who we are, we’re constantly tempted to identify as better than or less than others. As a coach or consultant, for example, my livelihood depends on having something to offer people or organizations that will help them. And I get great pleasure when good things happen for clients as a result of our work together. If I am not careful, I could easily surround myself with those I see as less whole or proficient. My wife, Chellsa, and I make it a practice before an important call or session to help each other see how we are holding ourselves as better or worse than the other people involved. The separation resolves, not so much into “I am the same,” as an enjoyment of the exquisite distinctiveness of each person’s character and skills.
Key three: be hungry to meet being-to-being. It is possible to develop an appetite for the depth in people. On the surface, our engagements with others appear to be primarily transactional. There is information to exchange or feeling to convey; a desired outcome from each engagement. Rapport happens inside of all of that. Along with whatever needs to be transacted, you are just eager to discover the other and be discovered by them. Is there anything more beautiful than to meet another in this way?
Make sure you give due attention to the desired outcome, the information and feeling that need to be conveyed in any exchange. Save some of your attention, however, for what is inside of all that: the quality of rapport you establish with another. If someone as stiff and reserved as I once was can find the way to create rapport, anyone can do it! Taking deliberate steps, such as those outlined here, can make a big difference.
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