Building Rapport by Making Others Comfortable
Posted by Todd Smith
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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?
In the course of our normal, everyday 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.
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 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 toward 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.
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 naturally 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.
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