The secret to landing your dream interview, meeting your ideal mentor, or developing a coveted relationship with an influencer lies in how you connect and relate to others. It’s all about building rapport.
As vital as technology is, we don’t do business with keyboards, tablets or apps. We don’t do business with business cards; we do business with human beings, so relationship-building and rapport are essential.
When I first opened my communications and PR company in 2000, I would go to networking events and return with a stack of 25 or so business cards that I had collected. I was impressed with myself at first, but not for long. I quickly learned about the relationship-based approach to business. My professional and personal worlds have completely changed for the better.
Building rapport and engaging with people—whether in person or online—takes practice. Much of it is based on intuition. It’s about creating a bond, link, connection, and understanding to another person.
The goal is to connect with others and get them thinking, feeling, reacting, and involved. And you can do this whether you have 10 months of work experience or 10 hours. Building rapport is an art and communication skill we all use daily in our interactions and relationships. It has to be developed if you want to connect with mentors and people who can hire you for internships and jobs.
Consider these five tips for building rapport with anyone:
- Be approachable. In person, carry yourself in a way that’s easy going, friendly, and confident. Pay close attention to your body language and nonverbal communication. You may be scaring people away without knowing why! Online have a welcoming and intriguing profile. Use a professional headshot and smile so your teeth show. Research finds that people respond more to those who smile with their mouths open, than those who have closed mouths in their avatars.
- Ask good questions. People love to talk about themselves. Asking questions and paying attention to the responses will help you discover a person’s personality, values, interests, and challenges. Listen closely, as your follow-up is key. This is how someone will know you are truly paying attention.
- Pick up on favorite words and phrases. Also dependent on your listening skills, keep your ears tuned to their speech patterns. Intersperse favorite words into your conversation—n a subtle way. This will help create a bond. It also brings a sense of comfort to the individual you’re speaking with, whether it’s face-to-face or on social media.
- Use their name. The sweetest sound to anyone is the sound of their own name. Sprinkle it into a conversation. And when you’re online, consider this example when poking around on Twitter. If a person’s name is not in their handle, click on their profile and get their real name. It will take only a few seconds, but it sends a powerful message: “I took the time to find out who you are because I care.”
- Learn the fine art of small talk. This will help in person and online, especially if you feel shy or nervous. Keep a few light “conversation starters” up your sleeve in case you run into a snag. Always be looking for opportunities that connect you with others—it can be something as basic as liking the same sports team, having the same kind of car, or ordering the same lunch. Focus on similarities, not differences.
Finally, remember that you can still have rapport with someone, even if you disagree. If you don’t see eye-to-eye, you can be respectful and appreciate differing opinions. Communication and relationships are based on compromise. With both in-person and online communication, you don’t have to agree. A simple acknowledgement is usually sufficient—and appreciated.