Back in the 19th century, Great Britain had two popular prime ministers, Disraeli and Gladstone who were competing with each other for political supremacy for over 30 years. The journalist Jennie Jerome, Winston Churchill’s mother, interviewed both of them. When reporting back from these interviews, she said, “After sitting next to Gladstone I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But when I sat next to Disraeli I thought I was the cleverest”. In fact, Disraeli had this ability to connect with people and make them feel at ease while also radiating brilliance.
Let’s see what you can do to be more effective in building rapport with other people. Let me share with you three pieces of advice that are simple and practical.
1. Look for similarities
We are all attracted to people that have characteristics and beliefs that resonate with us, “People like people, like themselves”. We should, therefore, strive to truly understand what people believe and value so that we can create meaningful interactions with them. The book Influence by Robert Cialdini explores this area more in-depth and I strongly recommend absorbing it.
I applied this notion in the past when I was in charge of Indirect Procurement at the Global Headquarters of a large multinational. I had to interact with many different stakeholders in R&D, IT, Marketing, and all the other functions. As I was meeting a new stakeholder, I was always encouraging a fairly comprehensive reciprocal introduction, including personal and professional aspects. As we introduced ourselves to each other, some similarities and would came out. Maybe we went to the same school, supported the same football team, or we both had three children. As we found these commonalities, a basis for a more effective relationship and interaction between the two of us was established.
2. Make effective compliments
You may have heard that “Flattery will get you everywhere”, but I am not talking only about flattery. The idea is to really aim to find something that you appreciate about the other person and tell it to them. Ideally, something that matters to the other person and that they have not already heard hundreds of times. It is important to be sincere in your compliment and to give it at a neutral time, otherwise, people will feel like you are trying to manipulate them.
Then, you can reinforce the compliment by providing a specific example of when they have shown this trait and ask some additional information about this competency. For instance, you can say, “Well, what do you do in order to express this competency on a daily basis?” Not only this would enforce the compliment, but it will also give you the opportunity to learn something more about this useful skill.
3. Use the mirroring technique
The science behind this technique is that whenever two persons get along well, they naturally also move their bodies in harmony, which means that they take similar postures, make similar movements, and have similar volume of voice. To view this phenomenon, just observe a young couple at the restaurant dinner table! Building on this natural occurrence, we can aim to reproduce this nonverbal harmony when meeting someone (check out this video for a richer analysis). The mirroring technique will then involve that during our meeting we take a similar posture, make similar type of movements, and have a similar speed and volume of voice. This technique incites a domino effect so that the nonverbal elements of our communication continue to match each other and we recreate this harmony which naturally takes place whenever two persons get along.
To summarize, to build rapport and create the basis for effective influencing, look for similarities, make effective compliments, and use the mirroring technique.
Since 2005, he is an award-winning Professor and Lecturer at leading business schools throughout Europe (Cambridge, EPFL, ESADE, HEC Lausanne, HEC Paris, IESE, IMD, Imperial College, INSEAD, London Business School, Oxford, RSM, SDA Bocconi, UBIS, University of Geneva and University of St Gallen), recognized for his lively and interactive training workshops.
He runs negotiation workshops in four continents. Corporate leaders from multinational corporations and individuals from over 90 different countries have attended his workshops.