Building rapport

When we work with some colleagues we establish great rapport. Energy levels are high. Work is exciting. Decisions are easy. With others, though, we struggle to understand and make ourselves understood. Progress on projects falters and there is mutual frustration.

NLP is invaluable at helping us understand what is going on here. We naturally gravitate to like-minded people - who think like us, feel like us, look at the world in ways that we do. But if we only work and get on with like-minded people, in fact our world is impoverished. Businesses founder if they are "mono-cultures" where everyone thinks alike. Bio-diversity is as important for our work as it is for our planet.

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Photo: Sanjay Pindiyath

So if we are to be effective at work, we need to build rapport with people who are not like-minded and to do it in ways that mutually raise energy.

One of the things that NLP shows us is that we process our worlds differently. For example, we take in information in different ways. And what we do with our eyes gives clues as to whether we principally process our world by seeing, hearing or feeling.

Someone who is largely a visual person needs a lot of eye contact. In meetings, presentations and so on, they will look round the room, wanting to see smiling, interested eye contact back.

But if someone in the room is mainly thinking in sounds, far from looking up, they will probably have their head down, with one ear directed to the speaker.

How frustrating for a visual person just to see the side of a head, which implies (for a visual person) indifference. So the visual person begins to get irritated, often without knowing why and thinks "they don't like me, they're not listening". Whereas in fact, far from it, the auditory person is giving their highest mark of respect - their ear.

Hearing people live in a challenging, fluid world

Hearing people live in a challenging, fluid world. They are relying on what they are hearing (and remembering) from their colleagues. But once the sentence is uttered, it's gone forever. If the sentiment in the sentence is uttered again, it will probably be said using different words (unlike the written word). So which version should the hearing person believe?

To the irritation of visual people, those who hear their world will often check up on what they have heard - several times - to make sure they really know what is going on.

Recognising these differences helps us to manage our mutual energy levels. We build mutual rapport, if we learn to recognise the other person's need and react accordingly. For example, a hearing person can help visual colleagues by looking up and smiling sometimes.

If we are visual, we can help our auditory colleagues by slowing down our quick tongues and repeating our ideas more than once, to make sure the ideas are heard and understood.

Sharing feelings

We can also build rapport by paying someone total attention - opening our minds and hearts entirely to what they are saying, without judgement.

How rarely these days do we look up from our computer screens and give someone our full, undivided attention.

Too often when we are in conversation with colleagues - especially in meetings - our minds are elsewhere, in the future or in the past. We are rehearsing what we are going to say, wondering if they will ever finish, planning the weekend, regretting what we said (or did not say) earlier.

We are encouraged in business to plan, with budgets, forecasts, targets. We spend time reviewing: last month's sales figures, the research on a recent launch. We rarely spend time in the present. Yet there is only one moment in time we can influence and that is now.

If we bring ourselves totally into the present and just be with our colleagues, something magical happens. They are given "energy airspace", to be creative, to think the unthinkable, to make great decisions. This is the way we build trust and rapport and work more effectively together.

We can also build rapport by paying someone total attention