Do you know someone who’s able to put people at ease and create a connection with just about everyone they meet? People seem to like them instantly and want to be around them. Heck, you even find yourself drawn in.
I’ve certainly met people like that. Even some of the drug dealers and lawyers I worked with had a certain je ne sais quoi about them. Yes, I’m using fancy French phrases because their charisma was that special. Yes, even the lawyers.
Maybe you’ve wondered what’s so appealing about these people whose appearance, credentials and experience appear to be average at best. Yet their ability to connect with others seems almost supernatural.
Imagine Having a Superpower
And that superpower enabled you to build instant rapport with anyone. Since we’re all in the business of selling our products, services, and our ideas, it’s vital that people like and trust us. It’s critical that we build rapport.
Even if you find making connections challenging, you can learn to build rapport with anyone. If I can establish rapport with bikers, drug dealers, and violent criminals; you can establish rapport in your relationships.
Bulletproof Body Language
I wish I could take more than twenty years of expertise in body language and boil it down into a couple of bullet points that would make your rapport building bulletproof, but alas, I’m not Stan Lee.
However, I can give you a few easy strategies that you can use to build rapport and increase trust in your life using body language. Here’s three to help get you started.
1) Mirror, But Don’t Make it Weird
When I was training to be an undercover police officer, one of the techniques I was taught to build rapport quickly was mirroring. Research shows that we prefer people who are like us, and mirroring is one of the fastest ways to make this connection.
Just to be clear, mirroring isn’t like a game of Simon Says or copycat. It’s adopting similar gestures, expressions, and temperament. Mirroring is when you subconsciously imitate someone’s nonverbals.
Mirroring says, “I’m like you” without uttering a word. It also communicates to others that you like them.
Danger Will Rogers
A word of caution here, before you mirror someone’s body language, consider the relationship. Just remember that too much mirroring or obvious mirroring will appear inauthentic, manipulative, or just plain weird.
2) When You’re Smilin’…
Studies show that your trust levels improve and you’re more likable when you smile. Researchers found that employees in the service industry who smiled came across as more likable, friendly and competent, and as a result, were better paid.
But what if you don’t feel like smiling? This is one time faking it ends up making it. Several research papers have been published showing that smiling reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and leads to actual happiness. So just by smiling, you become happier.
Smiles are also contagious. Neuroscientists found that when we see someone smile, it fires up our mirror neurons, leading us to smile. Sing it Louis Armstrong, “When you’re smilin’… keep on smilin’, the whole world smiles with you”.
But There’s a Limit
Just like mirroring, smiling has some limitations. If you’re smiling all the time you can look inept or inauthentic.
So the next time you’re in a professional or social setting where you’ll meet new people, don’t just walk into the room with a giant smile on your face. Wait until you’re introduced, and then as you’re shaking hands smile and say their name. This is a great rapport builder because the person you meet will subconsciously believe that their name brought a smile to your face.
3) The Eyes Have It
Of course, relentless staring is not a great rapport builder, and it can be downright creepy if it isn’t a game with a cute toddler.
How Much Eye Contact?
Studies show that rapport increases when people maintain eye contact between 60-70 percent of the time. More than that demonstrates overly friendly or overt hostility. Low eye contact, on the other hand, makes you appear unfriendly, indecisive, or untrustworthy.
But even weirder than continuous staring is trying to mentally calculate how much time you’re making eye contact. Instead of performing mental math, practice making eye contact until it feels comfortable.
As with mirroring and smiling, eye contact has some drawbacks. Consider the cultural or social environment you’re in. Some cultures view eye contact as disrespectful.
In the end…
You can have that je ne sais quoi and build rapport with anyone using simple body language techniques. The next time you’re with someone you want to build rapport with, subtly mirror their body language, smile, and make eye contact. Remember, not too much, not too little, just right.
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