Think of the most likeable person you know. What do you think it is that makes them so amenable to others, so easy to get along with? What’s the first thing that comes to mind?
It can be a tricky question. We’re much more likely to be able to recognise and respond to likeability than being capable of breaking it down into its constituent components.
Because of this, many people assume that the gift of rapport is some sort of innate quality. A mysterious gift granted at birth to a charmed and charming few who are able to subsequently glide through life as a result.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Likeability and the knack of instantly creating rapport and building on it are skills rather than inherent qualities and the good news is that those skills can be learned and practiced.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the crucial factor that lies at the core of the process and in this article we’ll look at a list of key habits you can cultivate to boost your own performance in that department.
Success, as we all know, leaves clues.
Emotionally intelligent people tend to exhibit some or all of the behaviours we’ll be covering below and use them to reliably forge powerful connections with others.
Study these habits on how to build rapport and start incorporating them into your mental model of the world. You’ll be astonished at how friendly and productive your surroundings and day-to-day interactions with others start to become after just a couple of weeks.
- Be open to questions
Why is that conversations with certain people are so much more interesting and engaging than with others?
It’s almost certainly because one of the parties involved has mastered the art of asking interesting questions.
The worst type of conversations are little more than thinly disguised monologues where each participant simply waits for an opportunity to drone on about themselves.
Make it a habit to really participate in conversations by asking interested questions to your partner throughout. People love talking about themselves and their passions. They just need to be invited to do so.
A low-key series of on-topic questions shows you’re fully engaged with the person and topic at hand and keeps the interpersonal wheels spinning. It also gives the other person a natural way of responding in kind.
You’ll want to keep this light and cheerful of course. Nobody enjoys the feeling of being grilled!
- Turn off the phone
Smart phones have brought us an enormous amount of technological benefits in a short time but in terms of cultivating social airs and graces they have been little short of a curse.
Nothing says “I really don’t care about what you’re saying” more quickly than checking the omnipresent mobile device in mid-conversation.
How can you expect to build any sort of rapport with other people if half of your attention is continually consumed by a steady stream of mostly meaningless interruptions and notifications?
Turn off your phone when you’re dealing with other people.
It boosts your presence and sends a clear signal that the other person has your undivided attention.
- Be sincere and genuine
To paraphrase the late George Burns: The main thing is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
We’re largely joking here of course. A sense of genuine engagement can never really be manufactured but it can most certainly be encouraged.
Commit to bringing your best self to all encounters and reacting honestly and directly with people – within the bounds of propriety and commonsense of course!
Stick to this as a habit and you’ll soon find yourself building a reputation as a straight-shooter that people want to be around.
- Don’t be judgemental
You may or may not have taken the time out of your busy day recently to take in a viewing Jean Renoir’s 1939 masterpiece La Règle du jeu.
On the off-chance that you haven’t, we highly recommend it if for no other reason than to savour the appearance of the following piece of timeless wisdom it contains:
“The awful thing about life is this: everyone has their reasons.”
Regardless of how it may appear to you when the snark reflex begins to kick in, most people are simply doing their best and trying to get through with the cards they were dealt on any given day.
Try not to rush to initial judgement in your dealings with others.
It’s a tendency that can all to easily lead to long-term misanthropy and bitterness if left unchecked.
- Don’t demand attention
As a society, we seem to be have taken the maxim “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” to our hearts a little too much at times.
Though it may be a successful strategy to build a C-list celebrity career around, in real life it’s a classic example of short-term pleasure versus long-term gain.
Yes, you may get that gratifying immediate dopamine hit of having the world recognise your existence if you showily demand it. You also stand an excellent chance of wearing people down however and seeing them slowly start to avoid you.
Emotional intelligence is a fundamentally generous practice and that starts with honestly giving attention rather than trying to suck it out of everybody you encounter.
- Be consistent
Everyone needs to shake things up every now and then. A foolish consistency, as Ralph Waldo Emerson so eloquently put it, is the hobgoblin of little minds.
The key word there though is foolish. Consistency on its own is a quality you should actually strive for, particularly when it comes to regularly matching your deeds to your words.
A quietly consistent approach will reap benefits across the board, whether it’s in terms of steady, iterative progress on your own projects and goals or in building trust with colleagues and friends who will appreciate the fact that they can actually rely on you to come through when it counts.
The trick is to not let it morph into stubborness or obstinacy.
- Use positive body language
Possibly due to the initially creepy portrayal of its benefits by some advocates way back in the eighties, the conscious deployment of positive body language has gotten something of a bad rap over the years.
We’re not suggesting Tom Cruise levels of relentlessly upbeat vim and vigour here, rather the practice of paying mindful attention to the constant physiological cues you are sending to others and – perhaps more importantly – yourself.
For a powerful demonstration of exactly how much impact this can have on your life, consult Amy Cuddy’s excellent recent TED talk on the topic – http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en
- Make a strong first impression
It’s all very well hoping to gradually worm your way into someone’s affections – on a business or personal level – but the harsh reality is that if you screw up the first encounter you may simply never get the chance to let the subtle majesty of your personality make its presence known over time.
Go the extra mile in terms of being open and present the first time you meet someone. Don’t simply brush folks off on the assumption that you’ll run into them again.
What people remember about you – and what forms the basis of their long-term opinion of you – is what happens in the first seven seconds of your meeting. It’s extremely difficult to claw back a poor start.
- Get your smile on
The power of a simple smile – both on yourself and others – is not to be underestimated.
Simply by flexing those facial muscles, you’re automatically making positive changes to your entire central nervous system (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201206/there-s-magic-in-your-smile ) and sending a signal to the world that all is well.
It may sound like a trite question but when was the last time you smiled today? How often have you smiled this week?
Don’t let “grumpy and frazzled” become the look you are known for.
- Use people’s names
This is an aspect of emotional intelligence that is sometimes massively mis-used but nevertheless essential to master.
Have you ever had one of those uncomfortable conversations where someone is deliberately repeating your name every five seconds? Awkward, isn’t it?
That’s a classic example of this tactic being used incorrectly.
Far creepier though, is someone who never seems to even acknowledge your existence and simply refuses to utter your name.
Strike the right balance and make sure you’re connecting with people appropriately on a first name basis when the time is right to do so. They’ll appreciate it.
- Know when to let people in
There’s no getting away from it, over-sharing is a disease of the modern world.
Knowing when to allow yourself to be emotionally vulnerable is, however, a key component in building trust with others and the foundation of all positive long-term relationships.
Don’t be afraid to let people in when it’s appropriate to do so.
- The power of touch
Touch is one of the most powerful rapport building tools known to mankind – when used appropriately!
Some people are inherently tactile by nature whereas others shy away from the slightest suggestion of actual physical contact for a variety of personal reasons of their own.
If you find yourself in the latter camp, take the time to explore why this might be the case and seek to get more in touch with your corporeal reality.
Your lack of comfort with the physical realm may have excellent root causes but you risk sending out very defensive signals to the world and becoming isolated if you take it too far.
On the other hand, if you’re a touchy-feely person by nature, always be aware that others may not find the same sense of reassurance in body contact that you do. Never assume that a hands-on approach is appropriate in every situation.
- Find the sweet spot between passion and play
Passion and intensity are excellent qualities to cultivate and naturally attract people into your orbit.
Nothing is more attractive to the world at large than seeing someone execute on their life’s calling with real commitment and focus.
Make sure you’re staying in balance though.
Relentless passion risks coming off as monomania to others not to mention damaging your long-term emotional and physical health if not managed correctly.
Make all of the above a daily practice
The list of things we’ve covered might seem like a large one to be constantly bearing in mind but really it all just boils down to one overarching, commonsense principle.
Navigate the journey of your days by the golden rule of emotional intelligence and most of the above will fall naturally into place: treat other people as you expect to be treated yourself.
This approach requires internal honesty and commitment, particularly when the winds are not in your favour or you are under pressure.
Knuckle down and keep going. These are precisely the times where this hard work is most critical.
It’ll pay off down the road. By building these positive habits into your life you’ll significantly widen your circle of influence and benefit from much more rewarding interactions with the world at large on a daily basis.