Several weeks ago, I learned an invaluable lesson from a toddler.

I was at a church service, seated at an outdoor “overflow” section. A lady seated in front of me had two children, one a boy of around 4 years of age and the other a beautiful little girl who reminded me of mine when she was 18 months old. She had the most angelic face with big round eyes, the kind that would melt hearts. Her innocence and energy were infectious.

Supported by the chairs and the knees of the people on them, she wobbly sidestepped up the row, pausing to establish eye contact with each person as if to acknowledge them for their support. I could tell from the smiles she got that each and every person she connected with did not mind the slightest . In fact, they fell in love with her. When she momentarily lost her footing, a gentle hand was there to ease her back to steadiness. When for just a brief moment, she realised she could no longer see her mum and let out a panicked cry, the kindly gentleman did not hesitate to gently pick her up and return her to her grateful mum.

I thought – what an amazing genius at rapport building. Without saying a word, she was able to influence others around her to want to help her. It reminded me of the quote by Scott Adams – “You don’t have to be a “person of influence” to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me.”

So what attributes did she demonstrate or what did she do to be such a competent rapport builder?

  1. Be vulnerable. In reaching out to others, she was taking the risk of getting hurt. By giving trust, she earned it back.
  2. Be accepting. She made no pre-conceived judgements – the person’s gender, status, race or creed didn’t matter – pure acceptance, faith and trust in the good that is in each individual. Again, by giving acceptance, she got it back in loads.
  3. Be interested. She established eye contact – her gentle, curious gaze said, “I am interested in you”. Again, by giving, she received.

In our dealings with others – our friends, relatives, colleagues, business associates, managers – even strangers, how effective are we in building rapport, that essential ingredient of influence?

How often do we reach out, and invest time and energy in building and strengthening relationships? How prepared are we to be vulnerable by extending trust? How genuinely interested are we in the other person’s needs and concerns? How accepting are we of others, appreciating them just the way they are?

In my studies and training on influence, I have learned that indeed there is a science to influence – A process or set of actions that each of us can model for excellence. The steps are uncomplicated. First, establish rapport with the other person you are looking to influence. Next, listen actively to the other’s needs and concerns. Third, tell them of your needs and concerns using their “language”. And finally negotiate a win-win solution and get agreement.

Easier said than done, but uncomplicated nonetheless.

But it’s the “art” (or “heart”) of influence that I believe truly determines how effective you are. And this comes from your innermost thoughts of the other person, your beliefs about trust and your intentions. To be the most effective influencer and rapport builder, the other person must first feel safe with you. And to be trusted, you must first be willing to give trust. They must sense that you appreciate them for who they are. And that you have their interests at heart.

Master the inner and outer game, and the world is your oyster.

Setting the emotional tone of an interaction is, in a sense, a sign of dominance at a deep and intimate level: it means driving the emotional state of the other person. This power to determine emotion is akin to what is called in biology a zeitgeher (literally, “time grabber”), process (such as the day-night cycle of the monthly phases of the moon) that entrains biological rhythms. For a couple dancing, the music is a bodily zeitgeber. When it comes to personal encounters, the person who has the more forceful expressivity – or the most power – is typically the one whose emotions entrain the other. Dominant partners talk more, while the subordinate partner watches the others face more – a setup for the transmissions effect. By the same token, the forcefulness of a good speaker – a politician or an evangelist, say – works to entrain the emotions of the audience. That is what we mean by, “He had them in the palm of his hand.” Emotional entrainment is the heart of influence.

Daniel Goleman

Source: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Pages: 117

Have a truly amazing day.