Like learning to ride a bike, the basics of getting people to like you can become a talent you’ll tap into time and time again. This reminder rang true during a recent bout of car trouble, after I decided to run an errand on a snowy Sunday night.
Driving home, my SUV started with a hiccup. Uh oh. Shortly after, the tire pressure warning light came on. Ditto, uh oh. Back at the house, I checked a rear tire and heard hissing, I tried restarting the car and heard nothing. I had won the daily double for automotive distress—a dead battery and a rapidly dying tire.
A half hour later, the roadside assistance club pulled up to my garage. Looking frosty and fatigued, Franklin, my vehicle hero, told me everything my battery warranty wouldn’t cover. Wonderful. I felt fleeting frustration forming but flicked it aside. I told Franklin I would value his expert advice. I listened to his reply and said I appreciated his coming by.
Before long, I had a new battery installed with a warranty-based discount, along with Franklin putting on the spare while pleasantly parleying flat-causing factors.
I had used a few getting-people-to-like-you techniques. Several days later, I came across an article by Eric Barker, who summarized rapport-building methods on the website, theweek.com, by quoting Robin Dreeke, author of “It’s Not All About Me: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone.”
Since every top 10 needs a retention trigger, I’ve captured a few themes shining through by referencing these as a TRRAC for building relationships, with TRRAC as an acronym for trust, rapport, respect, appreciation and control. Let’s take a look at how TRRAC applies: by exploring Barker’s summary and Dreeke’s work.
When meeting anyone, seek his opinion without judging him (build trust, rapport). Judging each other is an innate impulse, yet none of us likes to be judged. Dreeke advises nonjudgmental validation of another’s opinion means making the effort to understand his needs and wants. You don’t have to agree with them, while you do want to understand them. In my tale of transportation woe, I asked Franklin for his remediation opinion, paving the path for trust and rapport. In many similar scenarios I’ve blundered and blown past this practice; being ready to build rapport is better.
Suspend your ego, and people will more readily like you – put aside your own needs and opinions (establish respect, rapport). Want to zap camaraderie before it gets started? Correct someone or one-up him with your bigger story. Yeah, that’ll do it. Dreeke says ignoring your desire to be correct (yes, self-restraint is a virtue) means you avoid getting emotionally sucked into a potential disagreement. Apparently, when we hear things that contradict our beliefs, part of our brain prepares to fight, while the logical part of our brain hibernates. Putting your ego on the back burner enables others to like you. It also sets the stage for listening.
Become a great listener – focus on what others are saying rather than on what you’re going to say next (demonstrate respect, appreciation). True listening takes concentration and self-control. Listening is more than being quiet; it’s actively engaging your attention on someone’s comments, nodding acknowledgment, repeating what you heard and asking exploratory questions. Listening is not interrupting, disagreeing or providing an evaluation. I had asked Franklin, “How’s it going?” then closely listened. Who wants to be fixing flats in freezing nighttime temperatures? Not Franklin. Acknowledging the lousy weather and showing appreciation hit a nice note.
The best question to ask people – whether young or old, rich or poor, everyone has an answer (indicate appreciation). Dreeke says the best question is about challenges because we all have them. Ask what challenges individuals have at work, raising children, dealing with the weather or handling car trouble. Questions are powerful for getting people to share priorities and interests and listening to their answers lets you ask for advice appropriately and sincerely. For it to be properly perceived, asking for advice must be appropriate and sincere. When Franklin commented on what caused the flat, my query was genuine, and he enjoyed contributing his expertise.
Put strangers at ease – let them know they’re not trapped (enable appreciation, control). The propensity for self-protection pops into our perception in multiple ways, particularly with strangers. Shields go up as our need for safety, control and respect shift in. Like the dreaded telemarketer who calls during dinner, outsiders can make us feel trapped and defensive. Cut the tension by asking people if it’s a good time to talk, which researchers tell us makes individuals more likely to comply and assist. Despite this, you may still be doing things that makes others feel uneasy because your words and movements aren’t aligned. Nixing that is next.
Body language for building rapport – move in a manner that’s open, friendly and positive (reinforce rapport, trust). Per Barker, Dreeke advises setting the right tone must include positive words free of ego and judgement, along with matching body language. Smile to build trust, angle your chin down to show respect, and angle your body to avoid an offense-oriented appearance. Keep your palms up and open while talking, versus palms down which looks closed. Upward facial movements are open and comforting, while downward moves such as compressed lips and frowns convey stress. Smiles always matter so if you want to increase your power, smile slower. I like this one. I am smiling slowly right now, give it a try.
When dealing with someone you don’t trust, avoid hostility while being direct (create control). Rather than generating trust and rapport, cunning individuals may use these methods to manipulate. Ever feel out-maneuvered? Instead of becoming hostile, Dreeke recommends being direct and quickly attempt to clarify goals. Tell the other person you value his input and want to know about his goals. You can both decide whether you have mutual objectives. Also watch for validation and intent. Is someone promoting only his own profit, or pursuing your priorities too? If it’s all about him, manipulation is in play.
Are you using the above or comparable practices now? I’m applying some, overlooking others. Like refreshing your bike-riding technique to avert repeated falls at the same rut in the road, regularly refine your rapport-building strategy, rehearsing as you cruise each conversational trail. Think this sounds familiar? These concepts remain constant since Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was published in 1936, with millions of copies sold.
Also notice TRRAC factors purposely overlap. As a manager or individual contributor, knowing how to build Trust, Rapport, Respect, Appreciation, and Control positively influences people. Whether it’s automotive trouble or other interaction, get on the right TRRAC by getting others to like you. It’s good for you, good for them and categorically a great tactic for getting things done. Go ahead, get TRRACing.
Mary Elston has spent more than 20 years in management in the transportation, consulting and technology industries. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of the book, “Master Your Middle Management Universe, How to Succeed with Moga Moga Management Using 3 Easy Steps.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue.