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6 ways to build (and maintain) a strong rapport with anyone

Jul 6, 2017

rawpixel-com-274860.jpgBuilding a strong rapport with clients, colleagues and friends is essential to leading a successful and meaningful life. After all, people want to do business with people they like!

But creating rapport with those who challenge you might be even more important.

Have you ever been approached in a way that irritated you and and caused you to shut down? Rather than succumb to your frustration, you can use relationship-building techniques to make a friend out of just about anyone.

Whether you’re trying to win over a new client, strengthen an existing relationship or turn an adversary into a friend, these techniques will help you build strong, lasting bonds.

  • Match your energy level.

Whether starting a conversation over the phone or in person, it’s important to pay attention to the energy level and pace of the person with whom you are speaking. If you’re speaking with a slow-talking Southerner, then match your pacing and tone to theirs (without actually faking the accent). And if you’re speaking with a stern, analytics-driven person, then bring out this side in yourself. You will instantly make them feel more comfortable by demonstrating your common nature.

  • Build trust with your body language.

Body language is a complex yet powerful component of any social interaction. Your words can say one thing, while your physical presence can something entirely different. Body language expert Amy Cuddy says of certain interactions, “People make the mistake of over-weighting the importance of expressing strength and competence, at the expense of expressing warmth and trustworthiness.” As a broker, you want to display your self-confidence, but the person you’re speaking with cares more about trust than power up front. Cuddy suggests appearing positive and inviting by smiling and showing signs of interest.

  • Give them an out.

While it might seem counterintuitive to striking up a good conversations, one of the best ways to make someone feel at ease and build rapport is to actually tell them when the interaction will end. In his book about building rapport with anyone, Robin Dreeke says that by assuring the person you’re speaking with that the conversation will end rather soon, you prevent any discomfort around feeling trapped. And it makes total sense. We’ve all been approached by an old acquaintance and felt an immediate sense of dread that we were about to get trapped in a lengthy or awkward chat. But by mentioning something like, “I’m on my way out but I just wanted to say…” you can avoid causing this same tension and instead allow the person you’re speaking with to open up.

  • Use their name (yes, it really does help).

You’ve probably heard this advice before but have you ever really put it into action? If you have, there’s no doubt it helped you build instantly closer bonds with others. From customer service reps, to clients to police officers, using someone’s name when speaking can grease the wheels of any social interaction. According to career coach Joyce E. A. Russell, “A person’s name is the greatest connection to their own identity and individuality.” By expressing your acknowledgement of this identity, you form an instant connection. 

  • Remember the details.

Building rapport in a single interaction is one thing; building a lasting relationship with someone is an entirely different challenge, but a far more important one. In this case, it’s all in the details. Use your listening skills to draw out the nuances that makes the person unique. Maybe they hint at their love for soccer or mention they have a puppy. By first getting them to open up about these things, and then remembering them for future interactions you will evolve your relationship so you don’t have to start from scratch each time you meet. Saying something as simple as, “How’s the puppy? Bet he’s not so little anymore!” can show that you listened and took an interest in their life.

  • Follow up at meaningful times.

Once you’ve taken the time to connect with someone, you don’t want to squander your hard work by letting the connection fizzle. Put reminders on your calendar to follow up with key people at relevant times and include the personal details you’ve gathered in the notes section.

For example, a client might mention that their daughter is graduating from college in the spring. Next time you reach out for a meeting, ask how the party went. By bringing up one of those personal details, not only will you remind them of your connection, you’ll demonstrate your commitment to the relationship and attention to detail.

Not great at detail? Rely on technology to organize those details for you so you can focus on action.

Next: 66 ways to get uncomfortably close to your client

Nell Gable

Written by Nell Gable

Nell Gable is a freelance writer who specializes in creating compelling content for CRE companies and startups.

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