If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’re one amongst the majority who cringe even at the thought of ‘casual networking’. I completely connect with you if you don’t really understand the need for casual conversations, or you take time to open up to new faces or simply put, you are a private person! There’s nothing wrong with being a private person or considering casual networking as a waste of time. So do not run on a guilt trip if people around you accuse you of being this person. Some of the most successful people are private individuals and spend most of their time nurturing their art. But what they also deeply realise is that it is impossible to climb up the ladder of success without the support of people.
You might be an entrepreneur, a member of a startup, a corporate professional, or a freelancer. As long as you are in the business of dealing with humans in some way, then you need to wake up to the fact that you will have to indulge in some sort of pleasant interactions with others. I know we women are taught to be careful with conversations especially with the opposite gender, but this is business. This is your job, your work, and your purpose. You have to feed yourself some authentic professionalism everyday so that dealing with people becomes a part of your DNA.
If success had a shape, it would be a triangle. The journey from the base to the pinnacle happens only with the support of the two diagonal lines merging at the top. These diagonal lines are the people who support you at every level to reach to the top; men or women.
So here are my top three tried and tested techniques to build instant rapport with people.
Be genuinely interested
Numerous studies indicate that people rarely remember how you look or what you do, but they remember how you make them feel. So the idea is to first have an intention to build rapport. I have to mention this because you might have high expectations from the other person to respond your way. Well to be honest, no one has an obligation to respond to you in the same capacity. They never promised you anything. You might get disappointing responses or cold responses at times, which is okay. It takes some time to get into the groove. So be ready for the unexpected.
However, one thing that you must do is to initially focus the discussion around the other person. There are multiple benefits of this. Princeton University indicates that people love to talk about themselves the most. So if you ask ‘People Highlighter’ questions like, ‘Tell me your story’ or ‘How did you get into this field’? Or ‘Why did you choose this career path’? These questions will make the other person feel special and worthy. The other clear advantage of people highlighter questions is that it gets them talking and gives you enough time to warm up, considering you might not be very comfortable starting a conversation yourself. This way you’ve initiated a conversation but at the same time you are at the listening end preparing yourself to contribute.
Listen, respond, and level up
Usually, people get into a discussion but have exceptionally poor listening skills. Women especially get distracted because we are ‘suppose’ to multitask. But you must not have other thoughts in mind when you are trying to build connection with someone. You might have noticed that some people nod a bit too much while you talk to them or look away when you are trying to get their attention. This behaviour is bound to irritate you. So be sure that you are not this person when someone tries to get your attention. Shift your torso and feet towards the person who is responding to you. So once you have started a ‘people highlighter’ conversation with someone, please make sure that you listen to them through non-verbal nods like moving your head up and down and verbal nods like ‘hmm’, ‘yes’, ‘ah right’; you can also use some superlatives to respond like ‘oh that’s great’, ‘fabulous’, ‘awesome’, ‘absolutely’. These not only help you respond like a pro, but also level up the conversation to take it further into different related dimensions.
In the pursuit of being a people’s person, you can end up looking like a compulsive talker without any intention. Do not push yourself too hard. Be true to yourself. If you are working with a closed set of people, they know you, they already have a very strong opinion about you in their minds, which is difficult to change. So start small. You can make a list of ‘nourishing people’ at work, people who make you feel good and happy. Starting with these people will be a much better move as compared to starting with people who you hardly know or don’t really like. Nourishing people will encourage your efforts and make you feel good about this entire exercise. You can be yourself with them without being judged. The golden rule for rapport building is that the more authentic you are, the better your long-term relationships. But being authentic does not mean you completely ignore the areas of improvement. Take baby steps towards progression retaining your originality!
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