You know when you just “click” with someone you meet and you can’t quite explain it?
Or maybe you have a friend with whom you’ve formed an unbreakable bond, but you can’t put your finger on how that happened.
This sense of connection we develop with people is an incredible phenomenon, right?
But sometimes the opposite happens. Within minutes of interacting with someone, we decide we’re just not on the same wavelength, even if we can’t point to exactly why that is.
Both of these scenarios seem inexplicable, but guess what? There is a science to it.
Today, I’m teaching you how to build rapport with anyone you meet, so that you can greatly improve the odds of connecting positively with the people you interact with.
Ready to learn how to get along with anybody?
Let’s get into it.
So let’s first talk about this inexplicable sense of connection we form with some people, but not others. What causes this?
I’ve got two words for you: affinity bias.
In psychology, the affinity bias is the subconscious tendency to gravitate toward people who we think are like us, be it physically or philosophically.
In a physical sense, they might have a similar appearance, or speak with a familiar accent. In a philosophical sense, they might share similar beliefs or cultural practices.
You know that saying “like attracts like”? That’s the affinity bias in a nutshell.
As with most biases, affinity bias is sneaky. It activates without us even realizing it. And that’s a problem.
After all, if we only hang out with the people we instantly click with, we’re significantly limiting the size of our social network. We also risk creating a monolithic echo chamber where all we hear are the opinions and perspectives that we already agree with. Talk about boring!
Think of how much more multidimensional and dynamic our worldview and relationships could be if we conquered the affinity bias?
Right? Right. I feel like we’re clicking here…
So the challenge now is to conquer the affinity bias. This is where it gets fun.
Where do we start? We build rapport.
Rapport is a sense of comfort and familiarity with someone.
We have rapport with our family, friends, colleagues – pretty much anyone we interact with regularly. The more freely we can speak with someone, the deeper our rapport with them is.
When we click with someone instantly, that’s because we’ve managed to establish rapport with them right off the bat. More often, it takes time and multiple interactions to build rapport.
Creating rapport from scratch is like planting a tree. You plant the seed, give it sunshine and water, and watch it gradually grow. In our world of instant gratification, that process can feel frustratingly slow, but the payoff is totally worth it.
With patience, soon enough you’ll be enjoying the tree’s delicious fruits and soothing shade.
So how do we plant that seed of rapport? We’ve got five strategies at our disposal.
1) Have the Right Attitude
The right attitude in this case, is to adopt what author Nicholas Boothman calls a “really useful attitude”, which we’ll refer to as RUA.
In his book How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less, Boothman describes an RUA as projecting a positive and welcoming disposition. If the person we’re speaking with is describing a problem, we’re helping them find solutions. If they are expressing an emotion, we’re expressing empathy and solidarity.
According to Boothman, an RUA is “one of the major delivery vehicles of the likability factor.” We show genuine curiosity and concern for other people. We encourage them to talk about their interests and we work to find common ground. Because if we dig deep enough, we can almost always find common ground.
2) Get in Sync
No, I don’t mean go find the 90’s boy band. They’re long gone.
What I mean is to get into synchrony with your conversation partner, almost as if you were dancing with them.
Mirror their body language. Match their tone of voice and tempo of speech. Follow the fluctuations of their energy levels.
If they put their elbow in their hand and strike a pensive pose, do the same. If they’re laughing, laugh with them. If they’re whispering, lower your voice as well.
You might be surprised to learn that we already do this subconsciously. And the person we’re speaking with subconsciously interprets this as us being on the same page, which is what we want.
But don’t go crazy with this. If you are too overt about it, you’re gonna weird them out. A good rule of thumb is to mirror them about 80% of the time. That’s 4 out of 5 times.
Start slow and work your way up.
3) Ask Open-Ended Questions
In contrast to close-ended questions, open-ended questions can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. Instead, open-ended questions invite discussion and elaboration. They invite the speaker to share their opinions and perspectives.
The more they share with us, the closer they feel to us, and the closer we feel to them. Thus open-ended questions steer us away from the typical “cul de sac” of pleasantries to a place of exploration and discovery.
One way to do this is to phrase your questions with “How” and “Why”. Seek clarification with prompts like “that’s fascinating, can you tell me more about that [experience/person/place]?” Your goal is to show that you care about their point of view.
4) Practice Active Listening
Communication is a two-way street. We talk, but we also listen. And when you’re building rapport, you want to speak less and listen more. Listen with all five senses. Pay attention to what they say and how they say it. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous step because active listening will allow you to respond thoughtfully and ask the right follow-up questions.
One of the best ways to practice active listening is to attempt to rephrase what the other person says after they say it, using your own words. Paraphrasing forces you to internalize what they are saying and it demonstrates to the speaker that you are on the same page as they.
If you find you aren’t able to do this, then that’s a perfect opportunity to ask a clarifying question!
5) Discover Sensory Preferences
We each have a primary, secondary, and tertiary sensory preference that influences our communication. When we establish rapport with someone, we have at least one preference that overlaps with theirs.
For example, if one person is Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic, and their friend is Kinesthetic, Auditory and Visual, then they overlap in the middle with Auditory.
It’s helpful to figure out someone’s sensory preferences because it enables us to communicate on the same wavelength.
Visuals tend to talk fast. They use picture words to paint a scene or describe a scenario. They’ll use big sweeping gestures when talking, and they usually tend to sit and stand up straight. Visuals often look up to the left and right when they talk.
Auditories or Audis tend to place higher importance on tones and sounds. They tend to have melodic and expressive voices themselves. Audis tend to look side to side as they speak and keep gestures to a minimum. Words and sound are their currency.
Kinesthetics or Kinos tend to speak the slowest…sometimes so slowly that the listener gets impatient! This is because it takes more time to put feelings into words than it does to translate sounds or visual images to words, so this makes sense. They tend to use lower vocal tones and relaxed gestures. When speaking, they tend to look down, almost into their feelings.
Not everyone is just one of these sensory types. We are a combination of all three, but everyone has a dominant or primary sensory preference.
So figure out what yours are, and then try to do the same with your conversation partner. Once you identify the overlap, focus on communicating in that style.
Woo that’s a lot of information! Feel free to take another pass at this to make sure you internalized it 😊
Either way, let’s quickly recap:
Our ability to connect with someone is heavily influenced by our affinity bias, i.e., how familiar, and relatable they feel to us. We can overcome the affinity bias by actively building rapport with people.
And when it comes to building rapport, we have five ways to do that:
- Adopt a “really useful attitude” to establish common ground
- Synchronize with person’s nonverbals, energy levels, and tonalities during your conversation
- Use open questions to keep the conversation going
- Actively listen to the person’s responses
- Adapt to the person’s sensory preferences
Remember, it’s easy to talk to people who look and think like you. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But you’re more likely to learn new ways of seeing the world, and to uncover unexpected opportunities, by interacting with people whom you don’t immediately relate to.
So make it your job to connect with those people. More often than not, you’ll be glad you did.
So now that I've shared our thoughts, I’d love to hear how you like to build rapport. What works for you? What challenges have you encountered? How have you been rewarded for your efforts?
Share that with me and the Explearning community in the comments down below.
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With that, have an awesome week, Explearners.
Thank you so much for joining me and I’ll see you next time for your next Explearning lesson.
Happy Explearning ⚡