In Part 1 I talked about the principle that makes the difference in the quality of communication: seek first to understand, then seek to be understood. In Part 2 I revealed why knowing the principl alone isn’t enough, and the 3 distinct ways you need to know how the prinicple works, and how each area affects the principle differently.
In this part I’m going to share with you some useful tips and strategies that will help you to build strong rapport by increasing your listening skills and ability to understand someone.
The first 2, which are the most basic and important are:
1) Shut Up
Yup. No kidding, yeah? Ever been interrupted just when you were really getting into your train of thought, or wanted to say something really important? Didn’t feel spectacular, did it?
When you feel the urge to pipe in with a smart alecky comment, interrupt the conversation halfway or blurt out what you had for dinner last night, stop.
When you give someone the silence to reveal themselves in, you’ll be surprised just how much it helps draw out of the person.
So obvious it’s easily forgotten. Focus on the person right in front of you, not on the pretty girl or hunky guy (or both) walking right pass you, not on what you’re going to have for dinner later, or whether or not you should shell out for that shiny new iPod.
One way to easily train your focus is to pick one other aspect of their communication that you can pay attention to without being too distracted away from what they’re saying. You can pay attention to the tone of their voice as well, or their tempo, their gestures, body gestures, or a whole multitude of other things.
Advanced coaches will recognize this as a way to train yourself to listen to the whole other 93% of communication, only 7% of which is words.
3) Acknowledge the Other Person
The smallest gestures will say the most. Maintain eye contact, nod your head in reply to things you agree with, express your feelings with expressions or a few short words.
Demonstrating to the other person that you’re listening encourages them to express themselves more.
4) Reflect Back What They’ve Said
Pick something they’ve said and say it back to them in your own way.
Friend: My boss at work doesn’t seem to care. He doesn’t listen and he always jumps to the wrong conclusions!
Me: He doesn’t sound like he cares one bit!
5) Interpret Gently
Offer your own interpretations of what they’ve said after you feel you’ve heard enough, always willing to be wrong and never insisting your interpretation is right.
6) Put Together What They’ve Told You
After a while of listening, it helps to summarize what they’ve told you. It helps build rapport because they realize you’ve really been listening, and it helps you keep your focus fresh by reviewing what you’ve heard.
If you’re not sure of what they’re saying, ask! When seeking first to understand, the worst thing to do would be to pretend you know something you have absolutely no idea about.
I once attended a talk in which the presenter invited the audience to participate, and quickly shot down opinions he didn’t agree with by unleashing an empthatic ‘You’re wrong sir!’. You could hear the audience slamming shut a mile away. Needless to say the talk was a disaster.
Remember, you’re seeking to understand, even if you don’t agree. This requires you to put aside your own model of the world for a moment and step into theirs. At this point put aside judgements of wrong or right, and just recognize that if you’re feeling uncomfortable it’s because the perspective is new to you.
9) Imagine Yourself In The Other Person’s Shoes
This might be easy or hard for you to do on the flow as you’re listening, depending on how much you already do it. For me, it’s a little difficult, as I’m still picking up the skill, but I know some people who can process up to 4 different perspectives as they listen to other people.
As the other person is telling you about their situation, their thoughts and feelings, imagine yourself being in the same situation, having the same thoughts and feelings. Notice what it’s like, notice the added sense of empathy it gives you, and also notice what new insights you get as a result. You can also reflect these insights back to the other person to help you build rapport.
Some of these tips might sound tough, but trust me, when you get the first 2 down, to just shut up and focus, they become much easier. You just have to let the other person know they have the time and a safe space to truly reveal themselves.
Remember the core NLP maxim: resistance is a sign of lack of rapport. If you find yourself creating resistance in any way, you’ll know that’s the time to back up and start building rapport again.