Building Rapport By Making Others Comfortable

Have you ever talked to a person on the phone or met with someone for the first time and sensed they felt uneasy?  How could you tell?  Were they reserved? Did they fidget and seem nervous or just a little awkward? If so, what did you do? Did you just go on about your business or did you make an effort to make them feel more comfortable?

Your Goal

In the course of our normal every day lives we are going to meet people for the first time who may feel a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps they don’t know what to expect, they are ill at ease in social situations or nervous about making a good impression.

Whatever the reason, your goal in all of these situations is to make the person feel more relaxed and at ease. Going out of your way to be friendly and welcoming will start the conversation going, accelerate the rapport building process and diminish the person’s anxiety. In short order, you’ll have created a positive impression and made yourself more likable.

As you become more successful and people’s respect for you grows, making people feel comfortable plays an even larger role in your rapport building.

My Experience

This may sound a bit egotistical but it’s not meant to be. I just find that because of my success people are unsure of themselves when they meet me for the first time.  I can frequently sense this feeling in the first few seconds. Their uneasiness is communicated through their voice tone, how they measure their words and through their body language.

After experiencing hundreds of these initial encounters, I have learned that being extra friendly and showing an interest in them goes a long way to making them feel more comfortable.  It’s that simple.

In Person or On the Phone

If I sense that someone is uncomfortable during a phone conversation, I try to be welcoming and friendly and engage in small talk. I seldom dive into a personal or business conversation with anyone I have never met without first showing an interest in them.

Here is an example of what I might say to someone on the phone I have never met.  With a smile and a pleasant and upbeat voice I would say, “It’s nice to meet you. How are you doing today?”  I will then ask a couple of ice breaking questions such as “What part of the country are you from?” “How was your weekend?” or anything else that can put them at ease.

When getting together with someone I have never met, I will offer a warm and friendly greeting.  Generally I’ll initiate the meeting with a comfortably firm handshake and good eye contact. After introducing myself, I will proactively engage in some small talk and ask some general conversation starter questions, demonstrating interest. For example, I might want to know where they got the tie they are wearing and this can lead to a conversation about the store, the mall or the traffic. Keep the conversation flowing by asking open-ended questions that can lead to other topics.

Be Intentional

I find that most people are shy and feel some discomfort in new situations and therefore putting people at ease is a high priority. I’m now intentional about going out of my way to make everyone I meet feel respected and important to me.  This includes all the people I meet, regardless of whether or not they know my background or experience. I do it with everyone. The end result is that it has made me a better person and has enabled me to quickly build rapport with people.

Before you start saying, “That’s easy for you Todd”, keep in mind I am an extreme introvert. This does not come natural to me. It requires a conscious and deliberate effort every time.

My Challenges to You

I want to challenge you to start focusing on making new people you’ve never met feel valued, appreciated and more comfortable. Go out of your way to show your interest in them and the things that are important to them.

For those of you who are saying to yourself, “I already do this”, I want to challenge you to look for the little refinements you can make to improve the process. I have learned that if you are striving for excellence to achieve your personal best, you can always get better.

Lastly I want to challenge you to actively look for situations where people are uncomfortable such as the new employee, a first time visitor to your club or organization or someone standing off to the side at your next social event.  When these situations present themselves, push yourself outside your comfort zone and go make a new friend.

When you show an interest in others, you will brighten their day and connect in a special way.

About the Author: Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 30 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s daily lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts. (Todd’s podcasts are ranked #27 in America’s top 100 podcasts and #1 in the personal and development field.)

Related posts:

The 12 Fastest Ways to Build Rapport (Part 1)

The 12 Fastest Ways to Build Rapport (Part 2)

Modeling Builds Rapport

How Likable Are You?

What’s Your Brand?

10 Ways to Make a Positive Impression When Greeting People

Phone Greetings That Make a Positive Impression

10 Simple Ways to Show Your Sincere Interest in Others

10 Ways To Be A Good Listener

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  • Hi Todd,
    Great Post! I agree that we can always get better in making others feel comfortable.

    Have you ever felt the tension from being in a crowded elevator?
    My challenge to any of you is can you break the ice?

    As an extreme extravert I love to ask the following question in a sincere tone.
    "I suppose you are all wondering why I asked you here today?"

    Both nervous and genuine laughter breaks out. Sometimes even more spontaneous communication is invoked. The important thing is that it no longer seems to be such a dreaded uncomfortable ride.

    Are You Receiving Me,
    Kevin J. Kilroy

  • Kevin- You are TOO funny! Thanks for bringing a smile to my face once again.

  • Hi Todd,

    Your challenge today is an easy one for me, I love making people feel welcome and more comfortable. My toughest challenge though is walking into a room of people who already know me and yet they don't make the effort to make me feel comfortable. This is when I become more introvert which is not my personality at all. Any advice for me Todd?

    I hope you had a nice weekend!

    Dana

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