What is rapport? How can it be created in order to resolve conflict? Here are several helpful suggestions.
At some point in your life you might find yourself in a relationship that seems to have dissolved into a battleground of conflict. Or maybe you have found yourself needing to build relationships with people that you just don’t get along with.
How do you dissolve a feeling of conflict and get back to a place where you can build rapport?
Rapport is not necessarily about liking someone or agreeing with them. Rapport is the art of holding the willing attention of another person to facilitate communication. The question is, how can you build rapport with someone you don’t like?
Rapport vs conflict
Do you ever feel a twinge or irk while talking with someone? They just seem to hit all your buttons and you feel your temperature rising as they speak. You begin to feel frustrated or even angry toward the person.
Have you also noticed that when the person that you don’t get on with moves away from your place of work or your life, another person that triggers these same negative feelings within you takes their place? Yep! Another one!
We can’t get on with absolutely everyone we meet, can we? If there is someone we don’t get along with in a social setting, we can choose to walk away and have no further contact. But what if it is someone you work with, or a family member that brings on this nagging feeling, and you know that you have to see them every day?
You live in hope that the other person will discover the error in their ways and change their behaviour. Your friends or colleagues tell you to “be the bigger person”. But what does this mean, and why it is always you who has to change?
When there is no rapport, you feel conflict
If you feel conflict, there is no rapport.
When you get that irritated ‘vibe’ from someone – a feeling of frustration and you just can’t stand the thought of communicating with them – take this as a signal that rapport is needed right now if you are to have any kind of relationship with this person.
Building rapport is something that humans actually do naturally such as:
- Mirroring and mimicking body language
- Matching tone, pitch, and pace
- Listening and acknowledging throughout conversations
- Finding common ground
Not as easy as it seems?
Why though, when it comes to having a conversation with a person you don’t particularly like, do your rapport-building skills seem to suddenly fly out the window?
As that person approaches you, your brain switches gear and your internal dialogue kicks into overdrive. You can hear your heart pounding in your chest as your inner voice starts to throw out negative one-liners: “Here we go again!”; “What are they going to say this time?”; “I wish they would go away and leave me alone.”; “I can’t stand the way they operate.”
As your internal dialogue takes a hold of your brain with such negative thoughts, your subconscious mind takes this information and reflects your thoughts through your body language.
When this person comes toward you, you may find your heart rate increase, you may feel queasy, become fidgety, or you may appear distracted. You might go dry in the mouth or experience a wave of heat wash over you. Your body may become tense and rigid, your talking pitch higher, or your speech pace faster. You might also become jittery, or even display signs of nervousness.
When your internal dialogue is negative and reflected in your body language, the other person is picking up on your negative vibe. This strongly influences how they interact with you.
How I changed my internal dialogue and built rapport with my colleague
Many years ago I had to work with a particular person to ensure that the business was meeting its objectives. For months, our communication was ineffective. I could not stand the way they spoke, how they treated other people, or even how they behaved. Every time we had to meet, a feeling of dread would consume me. I was so challenged with how to relate to this person, there was no way I thought I could ever build rapport.
I became extremely frustrated, hurt, and angry and talked with everyone I could about how to manage this person. One of my colleagues looked me in the face and said, “Get over it. There will always be people like this in business and you will have to learn to deal with it.”
Great. Get over it. Deal with it. But how? What was I meant to do in this situation?
I knew I needed to find some common ground with this person if we were ever going to be effective in business together. So, I spent a great deal of time working through and analysing the conflict and lack of rapport. The actions I proceeded to take changed my relationship with this person forever, and we went on to be quite dynamic together in business.
I took control of my thoughts and changed my internal dialogue to something less negative.
Here are the actions I took to have better rapport
My internal dialogue started to get curious:
- How would this person behave at home?
- What kind of upbringing might this person have had?
- How might they interact with their family, and what do their family think of them?
- How are they feeling today? What has their day been like so far?
When this person approached me, I would look at them from a short distance and wonder:
- What they might have had for breakfast.
- What they might have done last night.
- The inspiration for their clothing choice today?
- What their favourite food was.
My thoughts were always about them personally. My thoughts were always curious and never asked out loud.
Initially, as I started doing this, I internalised some pretty sarcastic responses to my pondering thoughts. But, the more I practised the new thought pattern, the more curious I became.
Within a week of starting this journey of curiosity with this person, our relationship changed. They began to engage me in discussions. Our conversations became more effective.
Shifting the feeling of frustration to one of curiosity also stopped the negative internal dialogue I had been experiencing when this person was around. I found that I now had more mental space that allowed me to consciously build rapport. The best part was, I no longer felt frustrated or angry toward this person. I felt good about meeting with them. I felt lighter, more engaged, and a lot more aware of our communication. Together we became extremely productive in business.
How does this cause a positive change to communication and rapport?
- You remove the conflict that is in your mind.
- By focusing your attention on the person that you have conflict with and getting curious about their life, your internal dialogue changes.
- As your internal dialogue changes, your subconscious mind shifts your body language into one of curiosity rather than frustration.
- You have shifted your focus from your own feelings and are now curious about the other person.
- Your body language shifts to one of curiosity, which is more engaging to others than a sense of frustration.
- No longer using negative internal dialogue, you have freed up space in your mind to be able to build rapport naturally. You can now look the person in the eye and smile when you greet them.
- You’ve become interested in them. You actually want to ask them how they are today and what they got up to on the weekend.
- You’re prepared to and want to listen to them intently. (They might just offer you some information that appeases your curiosity!)
- You are now focused on what they are saying, their tone, pitch and pace.
- You’re now watching their body language and how they are responding to you.
- You appear more engaging to the other person. More open and receptive to communication.
- At no stage did you ask the other person to change. You shifted and changed your own internal dialogue and, in doing so, your body language changed and increased your confidence.
- You are back in the zone of being able to build effective rapport.
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