It’s not about what you know or even what you sell. Who you know is still the variable that separates astronomical success from the projects that fizzle out.
In what may be the biggest ever case of Easier-Said-Than-Done, almost every entrepreneur wonders: How do I go about the getting to know them part?
If you can’t rely on the silver spoon, alumni club or any other convenient leg ups then you need to study the art of connection. This article will show you how create rapid, powerful and lasting relationships with total strangers.
The step before step one: Get talking
Rather than condescend to my readers, I’m going to assume a baseline of conversation starting ability. For more tips, check out my guide to networking – the key is to have an interesting project to discuss.
Once you’re talking, the connection building can begin in earnest. There’s only one principal you need to understand…
People like people who are like them
Rapport building was once the realm of pop-psychology alone but recent studies, many of them popularized by authors like Dan Pink and Robert Cialdini, have eliminated the guesswork and reliance on anecdotal evidence.
We now know, thanks to papers like the one titled “Chameleons Bake Bigger pies and Take Bigger Pieces” (boring link) that humans are hard wired to accelerate trust building when they meet the familiar.
The accepted theory boils down to our need figure out who, beyond our closest family, we can rely on for survival. As prehistoric social groups swelled in size, humans began developing more sophisticated acuity – tools to identify the subtle and unconscious behaviors that betray a stranger as “one of us” or “not to be trusted”.
When you meet a stranger, their unconscious mind immediately queries: Is this person like me? Is he a member of the group I identify with?
Few cocktail parties offer the opportunity to discuss the meaning of life within seconds, so the unconscious mind gauges body language and tonality in lieu of a deeper assessment. Here lies the opportunity for you to instantly create a charismatic connection.
Sophisticated mimicry is key. The wizards behind Neuro Linguistic Programming call it “mirroring” and deplore obvious aping or parroting.
You can start by mirroring the following behaviors:
- Eye contact
- Hand gestures
- Posture of lower body (stance/leg position)
- Curvature of the spine (this is critical when sitting)
- Breathing tempo
- Verbal pace
- Length of pauses between words
If that sounds impossible, you need to know that this is a dance. Mirroring hand gestures doesn’t mean you should punctuate their conversational points with jazz hands at the precise moment they do. That would be idiotic. Instead, listen and subtly move your head and neck when they wave their arms. Then when it’s your turn to talk, move your hands in a similar way.
In other words, make them feel you’re the same kind of person as they are.
Each opportunity is doable when you frame it as a dance. Mirror the amount of eye contact, don’t match their every glance. Legs are easy – most people abandon all consciousness of their lower body posture when in conversation. Breathing seems impossible until you realize people breath out when they talk and in when they don’t.
You might feel this detailed deconstruction of a conversation is bordering on sleazy. You could be correct, but only if your goals themselves are sleazy.
Creating connection is merely a means to an end. Learning this stuff just makes you an effective communicator, not some kind of dark Jedi.
The weirdest thing is that doing this stuff increases empathy whether you like it or not.
I’ve taught these techniques to hundreds of my clients and thousands of corporate sales people and managers. The vast majority of them report that consciously using rapport techniques makes them feel more intimately connected to their conversational partner. The more they connect, the more they care.
This is because most of us aren’t sociopaths and these techniques are double-edged. People like people who are like them. And, as you morph yourself to be like someone you meet, you’ll find yourself starting to LIKE them!
The advanced mind control techniques begin here
As conversations progress and relationships extend over time, the significance of body language diminishes (note: It never quite goes away), to be replaced by values and beliefs.
Our closest friends, colleagues and confidants are those whom we share a similar view of the world. People who see as we see and hold as important that which we value.
To connect at this level you need to develop powerful flexibility. To get along with anyone, you’ve got to be able to step into their shoes and consider the world from their perspective.
Presenting a bullet pointed how-to guide on this topic would be an injustice. The secret, at this stage, is to let the “techniques” fade into the background and focus on opening your heart while considering theirs. The requirement is to suspend your own concerns, fears and needs and wholeheartedly meditate on their perspective.
A great friend of mine repeats the mantra “I want nothing from you but everything for you”, as a way of grounding herself before key social interactions. As a philosophy, it sets the stage for you to peel back the layers to connect with people’s true selves.
Overwhelmed? Here’s a tangible first step: When you’ve built initial rapport using the techniques in this article, make it your mission to simply identify your conversational partner’s beliefs and values. Just ask.
Find out what matters to the people you want to know better. Then care about it.