Picture this: you’re in a business meeting with a potential client. If all goes to plan it could be a big win for your company. Or you could be having an internal project meeting with a senior colleague. Or you could be talking to a CEO about a job opportunity. In any case, the outcome is critical. So, aside from the usual preparation and careful attention to business details, how can you help you and this important other person get on well? The key is to build a brilliant business rapport.
Business Rapport Tip #1 Perfect Your Listening
In this busy modern age, we can often value the art of talking, singing or generally ‘making noise’ far above the near-forgotten art of sincere listening. We spend a lot of our lives listening, so we should learn how to do it properly in business.
Adults spend an average of 70% of their time engaged in some sort of communication, of this an average of 45% is spent listening compared to 30% speaking, 16% reading and 9% writing. (Adler, R. et al. 2001).
Being a good listener can therefore be far more important than whatever you may say, especially when you are listening to someone who really needs to be heard. Listening is way of showing someone else that you value their opinions, feelings, ideas and more. Listening properly is a vital part of building a rapport with someone.
So, how can you listen well? Firstly, show you are listening by looking at the person who is speaking. Use your eyes, ears and mind to focus on the speaker. Put aside whatever you may be doing and do not get distracted. Listening quietly on your part also makes the speaker feel calm, relaxed and encouraged to share feelings openly and it keeps the conversation going.
As a listener, always listen out for the main or key points. If you are unsure, it is always best to ask questions to clarify rather than to assume you understand. Do not keep re-phrasing every sentence, finishing their statements or parroting it. You may wish to interject with the occasional ‘I see’ and so on, but do not interrupt the flow of conversation other than to show that you have understood.
At the same time, try not to ignore the feelings of the person and make insensitive comments after hearing what the speaker has said. Try to avoid listening too far ahead and making assumptions about what the speaker might actually mean. If you have to take notes, always ask permission of the speaker. Remember, taking notes may be inappropriate in certain situations, particularly when sensitive topics are being discussed.
In conjunction with great listening, do also be a considerate talker. You can help the process of someone listening to you by adapting it to the other person. If the person has a particularly short attention span, keep things short and specific. As our backgrounds are all very different, so the way we interpret meanings of words and messages will differ from person to person. Do try to avoid using unfamiliar words or dialects which others may not understand as this can affect their understanding.
Business Rapport Tip #2 Understand Body Language
Did you know that body language can constitute 50% or more of what we are communicating? Whether we intend to or not, messages are unconsciously conveyed through all our non-verbal communication. We must therefore take real care with how we act as our actions speak louder than our words.
Gestures like our posture and poise, our eye contact, our smile, our handshake, how we tilt our head, whether we lean forward, where we place our hands and many other gestures, can serve to make us look more interested in others and confident in ourselves. All of these signals can convey important messages.
Gestures that make us look bored, distracted, unapproachable or arrogant must be avoided. What does it say about us when we slouch, or scowl, or tremble, or tightly cross our arms, for example? To be more effective at communicating, we must pay attention to the non-verbal cues that we give and receive from others.
Use Appropriate Gestures
Your verbal and non-verbal communication can work together to convey a message. Improve what you are saying by using gestures and movements that supports your words. When your body and words are in harmony such as saying something positive, underscored with a smile the communication more effective and meaningful.
Tailor Your Approach
Always consider the situation and the context of the communication. Some formal situations require different postures and conduct. The signals must match the situation. Do not be over familiar by making physical contact with someone in a more formal situation – read their signals and mirror them.
Business Rapport Tip #3 Ask Questions
If you are confused in a meeting, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You could share your interpretation of what has been said by summarizing, saying:
So what you are saying is
Don’t be embarrassed to do this, it shows you have been listening and are trying to fully understand, which is a compliment.
Just remember, play it straight and honest, always be polite and enthusiastic and the rest will follow – a rapport that can grow and grow as your business develops.