Once you have gone to the effort to make contact or to invite contact, you can do other things to improve your approachability. Your reception of other people – the behaviors you use when actually speaking to them – can have an important impact on how approachable they consider you to be.
Putting others at ease
Setting people at ease is an active and ongoing process, even with individuals who know you well. So when people speak with you, you need to be proactive in making them feel comfortable. The first thing you can do when a colleague approaches you is to stop what you're doing and pay attention.
You also make colleagues feel at ease through the following actions:
- complimenting them appropriately – Compliments can convey caring and show that you notice and appreciate a colleague's good qualities or work. However, getting too personal and giving insincere compliments are inappropriate.
- showing genuine interest – Most people enjoy conversations about absorbing topics with a good listener who shares their enthusiasm.
- being patient – You need to be patient with other people's foibles and anxieties. Offering empathy and gentle reassurances can alleviate worries, as can working through problems rather than offering unsolicited personal advice.
- being pleasant and polite – You should convey respect, warmth, and consideration toward your colleagues. Always smile and greet people. It may also be appropriate to shake hands, offer a seat, or thank someone for coming by.
Another way to put others at ease is to ask questions. Asking questions gives people the opportunity to share information with you and can show genuine interest, indicating you want to listen and learn more.
Not all types of questions work equally well in conversation:
- Closed-ended questions elicit just a "yes" or "no" or another very brief answer.
- Open-ended questions kindle conversation by encouraging the other person to elaborate. They work best for keeping a discussion going.
- Follow-up questions help you to learn more about what's being said because they relate to something another person has said, or something you know they are involved in.
Once a connection has been made, a relationship forged, and trust developed between people, rapport may then be built over time.
Listening to build rapport is an activity that requires close attention to another person and to what this person is saying. Active listening requires that you do the following:
- eliminate all distractions – Try to structure your environment to avoid being distracted – find a place to talk where you will not be disturbed during your conversation.
- focus exclusively on the speaker – Demonstrate your focus by maintaining appropriate eye contact, glancing away from the speaker only from time to time.
- listen closely for both the meaning and intent – When you listen to someone, you need to listen not only to the person's words but also to what the person means by them.
- control your own emotional reactions – If you react emotionally without hearing a person out, you can easily misunderstand the message and the motive for it.
- ask questions to clarify the message – You ask questions to clarify what a person is saying, to continue the conversation, to deepen your understanding, and to show the other person you want to learn more.
- summarize – By restating key points, you demonstrate to the speaker you've grasped the essence of what he's saying, and you give this person an opportunity to correct your misinterpretations.
Disagreement need not be a barrier to rapport. Your intention should be to understand and recognize other people's viewpoints and ideas – not necessarily to agree with them.
Creating harmony is a process of matching your understanding, behavior, body language, and interests with those of others. By synchronizing yourself with other people, you create a sense of unity and companionship. Empathy is generated through this common accord, and this builds rapport. To harmonize with others, you need to find common ground and match your understanding with them. To do this, find out what perspectives, goals, and interests you have in common, and let others know you share them.
Matching others' behavior and body language to harmonize with them isn't a direct mimicking process. It's something that often happens naturally and easily when you're aware of those around you and you're responsive to them. To enhance your ability to match and thereby harmonize with others, pay attention to how they are moving and their tones of voice. Then allow yourself to mirror this behavior without identically matching each gesture or inflection.
Sharing information about yourself and how you feel allows others to get to know more about who you are. And, as others understand you more, they tend to feel more comfortable and more free to share information about themselves. This provides a good foundation for building rapport.
To share with others and build rapport, you should be prepared to volunteer information and answer reasonable questions about your life, feelings, and interests. If you don't share with others, they may find you secretive and aloof. This will damage your rapport – they're more likely to feel guarded and nervous around you.
Good reception during conversation puts people at ease and increases your approachability. To provide this, you need to stop what you are doing and pay full attention, make people feel good about conversations they have with you, and ask appropriate questions. To help ensure people enjoy conversations with you, you can give appropriate compliments, show genuine interest in people, be pleasant and polite, and be patient with people's foibles and anxieties. One aspect of improving your approachability is developing rapport with others. Rapport enhances your approachability and is built by listening actively, harmonizing with others, and sharing your thoughts and feelings.