Rapport Building: the Jedi Way

light_sabers-1024x576I sometimes get asked big question that sounds like this: “What if I am doing all of these things to try to connect and build rapport but the other person is trying to do the same things, will we kind of cancel each other out?” No. In fact the exact opposite is true. You will notice a strong energy developing between the two of you. The result will be a quicker and deeper connection.

When two people are both vested in attempting to genuinely and sincerely connect with one another, extraordinary things can happen. I see it as two people using habits 4, 5 and 6 of the 7 habits of highly effective people. Both are thinking win/win, both are attempting to understand before being understood, and this results in synergy.

But what if it goes the opposite direction? What if one or both people are attempting to use the skills to manipulate the other? Sometimes when people read a book on how to connect with others it can feel very disingenuous, almost like we are trying to manipulate them. It’s true of course that the skills can be used to manipulate people and I’m sure that some folks do use them to manipulate, but I look at these skills like tools. I can use a hammer to drive in a nail, or to hit someone over the head with. There is a light and a dark side to these forces.

One day I was playing golf in a tournament and I was meeting a new contact to discuss some mutually beneficial business deals. As I was walking up to the pro shop I noticed in his car that he had a copy of a book on how to connect with people. I don’t remember if it was Carnegie’s book but it was definitely along these lines. I could have decided to feel manipulated but instead I felt a little bit flattered and also a bit relieved – he was nervous but also vested in the encounter, just like I was. Clearly he was looking for ways to connect with me just as I was looking for ways to connect with him. That did not engender distrust, but instead put us on equal footing as we were both trying to connect and made for a more enjoyable day of golf.

Let’s get back to our question. If you know how to use these skills for good, then you certainly recognize when someone is using them for evil. It’s just like in Star Wars. But the good guys and the bad guys use light sabers, the Jedi use them for good, while the Sith Lords use them for bad. Same tool, same technique, different intent.

Dale Carnegie notes that many people trudge through most days of their lives with little excitement (Carnegie/Cole 165). But the digital age provides numerous opportunities to create touch points with other people, discover commonalities and build closer friendships (Carnegie/Cole 165). Just the other day, a few hours after finishing my TEDx speech, I received a kind word from one of the other speakers, a local news personality, but it did not come in the usual way which is either email or text. I received a tweet from her. This was both unique and appreciated, not just for the message but because it stood out from other modes of communication. Happiness expert Shawn Achor recommends sending at least one person in your network a positive email, asking for nothing but just appreciating them – that’s good advice! What ways can you appreciate someone?

To make your idea really hot, take a unique approach. Step beyond the bounds of your computer (like maybe to your smart phone) and do something people don’t see every day; use all the tools available.  (Carnegie/Cole 165)

Another way to connect genuinely is to share your story. The short and long-term success of all interactions is dependent upon the depth of the relationship (Carnegie/Cole 166). The more a colleague, friend or client or customer shares your journey the more you can accomplish together (Carnegie/Cole 166). When your journey is their journey and their journey is yours, we are compelled to see where it goes (Carnegie/Cole 166). Once we understand another persons journey, we better appreciate them and they, us.

Other key ways to connect:

  • Look to work, do business and share your time and your life with people who are like you in character and commonalities (Carnegie/Cole 134). We’ve all heard the old adage “opposites attract.” There is some truth to this as there needs to be some polarity in every relationship to provide variety or else both couples get bored. But there needs to be enough in common between the two because commonality creates rapport and rapport is what builds and maintains relationships.
  • Surrender the credit. Most people will tell you that the worst quality in a leader is that they take credit when things go well and they blame everybody else when things go wrong (Carnegie/Cole 142). I love this analogy: think about the Sea of Galilee which is teeming with fish and life, while the Dead Sea is dead and devoid of life. They are both but by the River Jordan, so what is the difference? The Sea of Galilee gives all of its water away, while the Dead Sea keeps it all for itself.
  • Engage with empathy (Carnegie/Cole 147): Habit 5 of the 7 habits is seek first to understand, then to be understood. Stephen Covey called this the habit of “empathic listening.” Empathy means to literally feel as the other feels. But Carnegie says that empathy is not a natural response – we have to work at it (Carnegie/Cole 150). Because we are self-centered by nature (its that self-preseveration thing we discussed), we have to put in some effort to truly listen, with our eyes, our ears and our hearts, to another person. But it’s worth the practice!

Finally, appeal to noble motives. The motives do not have to be as lofty as saving the world, they can be as small as perseverance in the face of strong opposition. I took one of my boys to his tae kwon do belt test today. While he is not old enough to break boards yet, several of the older kids were there and as part of their test each was required to break a board. There were a couple of kids who tried several times and still could not break the board with their kicks. Neither of them ever gave up though, and when the board broke not only did the entire class applaud, but all of the parents, who were in a separate room and behind a sound-deadening window, applauded wildly, not just the kids’ parents.

In someway we all want our everyday greatness to include heroic elements.

There is something in fighting for a noble cause that we all find ourselves drawn too no matter what the mission. Ever been in the simplest of situations where you’ve dropped some small object, and its windy out and you decided you’re going to chase after it? What happens with the people around you? Many times they become involved in the mission and help you out! Even if you’re chasing litter across the Target parking lot, others will often become engaged and try to stop it or catch it – and these are people that don’t even know you!

We know that the same dynamic occurs when two people are both dedicated to connecting, but what is wonderful is that when just one person starts out trying to connect, and using the tools of winning friends and influencing people, the other person often joins the mission.

Carnegie, Dale, and Cole, Brent. How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2012. Print.

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