Well, first of all it takes two people. Talking to yourself isn’t communicating. So you need to make some sort of a connection with the other person, even if you've never met them before.
There are whole books written about building ‘rapport’ through activities like shadowing or mirroring body language. But there’s a much easier way. It’s a secret that really successful people use, but they hardly ever talk about it. Once you know it, you’ll find yourself getting on with new people so much better.
And the best thing of all is, you don’t even have to say anything to build up a good relationship.
So here it is:
When you meet someone new, look them in the eye and tell yourself that you like them.
That’s all there is to it. It’s a sure-fire way to overcome shyness and it isn’t difficult; but it does take practice.
If you find it hard at first, make a list in your head of the things you like about the people you meet. ‘Lovely blue eyes,’ ‘nice hair’, ‘looks kind’ and so on.
When youtry this for the first time, you may be surprised to find that your first thoughts tend to be negative, and you’ll find that simply changing this thought pattern makes a huge difference.
Change, "She looks cross" to "She looks like she could use a friendly remark."
Of course, there are some people you may need to work harder with than others. Maybe they remind you of a teacher you were scared of one. If that’s the case, use the old trick of imagining them with no clothes on.
Then, once you feel more relaxed, look at them again and find something good about them. Even, ‘you look tired’ is a good thought that will help you build rapport.
By thinking good thoughts you’ll give out friendly body language, without even knowing you’re doing it. This is called ‘congruence’ and it’s about how the way you feel matches how you behave. It's one of the most powerful tools in your communication kit.
Here’s a real life example of building silent rapport.
Susan went to a job interview. The interviewees sat on one side of a table, and the panel of interviewers on the other side, for an introductory talk.
It felt very formal and awkward. Susan noticed that one of the interview panel in particular seemed uncomfortable. She was looking down and around the room; anywhere except at the candidates.
Although she seemed fierce and unapproachable, Susan decided she was just nervous. After all, interviewers are often just as anxious as the people they interview. Susan liked her for being nervous.
So during the introductions Susan made sure she caught this interviewer’s eye and gave her a big reassuring smile. The interviewer smiled back, her face relaxed, she looked happier and she began to talk in a friendly way to the interviewees.
Susan got that job, and she always had a great working relationship with the interviewer. The funny thing is that the interviewer probably never even realised why she liked Susan so much.
Other communication posts you may like:
Talking the same language
How to use your five senses for better communication
I write this Communication Blog
Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.
I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.
I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.