Dear Fellow ALPHA,
I am going to make a bold statement –your level of success will be equal to your ability to build rapport. In my opinion, being able to build rapport is more important than money and education - combined!
This might sound counterintuitive to everything you know however, if you look around, individuals with a track history of developing sustained success are rapport experts. These connection-building magicians have built a strong network of people around themselves and their businesses.
You may have heard the famous quote by Arnold Schwarzenegger “You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pocket.” This is true, you have to engage life and take action. However, the one thing the Austrian Oak doesn’t tell you is the ladder of success isn’t a ladder – it’s a mountain!
In order to climb this proverbial mountain you’ll need, at one point or another, the helping hand of another person. In order to move forward in life we need people to support our footing and others to provide a hand to grab as we pull ourselves up to the next level.
Knowing how important rapport building is to success, I still find it shocking that the American educational system seems to overlook this subject. Students learn physics, calculus, chemistry, proper English, art, history and how to fill-out a Scantron with a perfectly sharpened No. 2 pencil but little to no guidance on how to build a connection with another human being.
As someone who has had multiple “careers” which span from being a competitive athlete, doctor, consultant, author and now CEO, I can say without a doubt building rapport is a critical aspect in all areas of life. Building rapport is the “secret of success” every entrepreneur is looking for.
It’s the ingredient people who have climbed the mountain of success have developed. These individuals learned how to build rapport before starting their climb. They instinctively knew at some point along their journey they were going to need a boost or hand in order to continue their climb and plant their flag at the peak.
So how does this apply to you, an ALPHA, striving to harness your strengths? You’re striving to maximize your potential and ultimately build a better life for you and your family, right? Well, all aspects of ALPHA require the development of outstanding rapport skills.
No matter which RAM Advantage proprietary section of ALPHA you fall into (Achiever, Leader, Provider, Helper or Athlete) your ability to maximize your potential and experience success is directly tied to your ability to build rapport with another person. This could be your team, spouse, child or for that matter anyone you have a working or personal relationship with.
Building rapport is more of an art than a science. There isn’t a “cookie cutter” approach that will work for everyone. You will need to blend your skills to find the right combination, which will unlock a connection with someone. Below are 3 basic techniques I have found profoundly powerful in building rapport with people.
Years ago it was discovered by a team of researchers at UCLA that the communication process can be broken down into three parts. These three parts are words, tone and body posture. These same researchers found in order to communicate effectively there needs to be congruency, alignment, between what you say (the words), how you say it (the tone) and your body posture (physiology) while saying it.
They even broke down how much each part of this process plays in the communication game. Your body posture accounts for a gargantuan 55% of the communication process! The tone of your conversation accounts for 38% with your words bring up the rear accounting for a measly 7%.
It should be obvious, learning how to have positive body posture is one of the most powerful rapport building tools you can have in your arsenal. Learning how to developing a warm, friendly and inviting body posture can help tremendously in building a connection with someone. Here are a few keys in developing a positive physiology. First, start with the head and go down from there.
If you want to send a positive signal to someone it's important to be conscious that you don’t have RBF. Avoiding RBF is easier than you think. Simply, start by relaxing your eyebrows, widen your eyes and have a slight smile. By doing this you are sending a positive invitation. In essence, you are broadcasting to the world “I am friendly, happy and approachable.” A non-RBF is akin to a dog wagging their tale, you know it's safe to approach.
Next, use your arms and hands to demonstrate you are looking to connect. Keeping your arms uncrossed, relaxed at your side and with unclenched hands is a great start. Then, when you see someone you want to connect with don’t be afraid to give them a subtle wave, head nod or light fist punch. You want to acknowledge them and let them know that you are happy to see them. Just make sure you don't over do it or you will end up looking like a mom sending their kid on the school bus for the first time -choose to be subtle.
Lastly, always stand with confidence. Shoulders back, hips tucked, feet shoulder length apart and your head even. This projects stability and confidence. When you project confidence people will be more likely to respect what you have to say. Your posture goes a long way in determining your ability to connect with others, your credibility and whether or not people see you as a leader.
When you develop a +physiology you will not only see a difference in how people interact with you but in how you feel internally. People who project confidence sooner or later will start feeling confidence.
Control the Conversation
When you take control of a conversation it doesn’t mean you dominate it, dictate it or talk over people. Doing that is a surefire way to destroy rapport. Instead, taking control means taking responsibility for the direction and ultimately the outcome of the conversation. This is a portion of building rapport most people miss.
When trying to build rapport with someone it's important to remember you are trying to build a connection that will have a beneficial return down the road. In the beginning it's good to steer conversations away from potentially polarizing topics like politics, religion and social issues. These subjects can be touched upon only after you have a solid rapport with an individual.
One of the best ways to lead a conversation is from a position of interest. When you take interest in people - people will find you interesting and you will be well on your way to building rapport. We live in a selfie world, don’t have a selfie personality! How can you make sure you don’t have a selfie personality? Easy, ask questions! Start by asking people about their job, family, kids, upcoming trips, what is their favorite workout, television show and other personal interests.
When you ask questions and take a genuine interest in someone you are being given a tremendous amount of flexibility. First, it allows you to control the conversation. When you are asking questions you can stay away from the potentially hazardous areas mentioned above.
Second, it allows you to discover how someone likes to be communicated with. Some people like direct, to the point conversation. Others need more of a velvet glove when you talk to them. By asking questions you can figure this out simply by paying attention to their responses.
Third and most importantly, asking questions allows you to find areas of mutual interest. Finding mutual interest, as you will learn later, is critical in the rapport building game. People like people who are like themselves. When you find similarities you can find common ground to share.
Another aspect of taking control of a conversation is monitoring the signs and queues the other person is giving you. If there is someone at the office or gym you want to connect with the best time probably isn’t while they’re hustling to the next meeting or are entering the squat rack with 400lbs loaded on the bar.
When building rapport, sometimes all it takes is being that person who gives a fist pump and a quick “how are you?” Again, controlling the conversation and showing interest in the other person. If they stop and want to chat, that is a great queue to continue the conversation. Watch for openings and queues to connect with people. When your opening shows itself, take a keen interest to learn about the other person, the natural ebb and flow of the conversation will provide an opening for you to also talk about yourself.
Seek Connection over Conflict
In 2018, America is a polarizing place to live. My advice - be different and choose to find common ground by refusing to see differences. Instead, choose to shine a mental spotlight on the similarities you share with others.
Seeking a connection starts with respecting the person you are communicating with. The easiest way to do this is by being fully present. By making your mind and attention stay where your feet are. Remember back when your 4th grade teacher stood in the front of the classroom and said “class give me your full attention”? Choose to give the person you are talking with your full attention. This starts with putting your phone on silent and placing it out of sight until you are finished with the conversation.
Another way to build rapport is by refraining from acknowledging fault, at least initially. This is especially helpful for Leaders and Providers who are managing people or teams of people. This doesn’t mean overlooking miscues, as anything less than excellence shouldn’t be tolerated and corrections will need to be made for mistakes. However, I have found that it's not culturally constructive to acknowledge mistakes right off the bat. Many times, immediately acknowledging mistakes can derail culture.
Instead, find a way to align with the person you are talking with and spotlight what they did right. This builds trust and rapport. Many times people are more receptive and willing to make corrections after feeling like their successes were acknowledged. An easy way to remember this is people are more likely to make a correction after a connection.
When a conflict does arise, choose to take a deep breath before reacting. Always reserve the right to tell somebody off – even if they deserve it! Conflicts are like the wind, many times they blow over and are barely remembered however, a bridge burned is never forgotten. I have found it’s always easier to hold on to rapport than trying to rebuild it.
When a conflict does arise look for the quickest, most direct way to diffuse it. If one can’t be found, walk away. Sooner or later you will cross paths with that individual or someone connected to that individual and how you act during a conflict will have an effect on your success in the future.
In conclusion, building rapport is about taking a higher interest in other people than you do in yourself. This doesn’t mean you think less of yourself, you just less about yourself. So, the next time you want to engage with someone make sure you don’t have a RBF and clinched fists or you might make them think you are getting ready for the 6:00 pm kickboxing class instead of sharing the business idea you worked on all night.
Until next time,
Attack your life with passion!
Co-Founder and CEO, RAM
American Strength: the Ultimate Guide to Health, Happiness & Success, by Brandon DiNovi, Publishing-Partners, 2016, pp. 21–26.