No matter how talented or smart you are, if you can’t communicate effectively with others it will be difficult to get a job, retain clients, and have productive relationships. It's a delicate process. Communication can be a hectic two-way street with messages coming and going between sender and receiver. If you aren't paying attention, you'll miss a queue and in turn, send a response that isn't ideal.
Listen, some people are born with that 'gift'. They can pick up on something and jump into any conversation whenever they want. Most people aren't built that way. Let's dive in and look at a few ways to improve. The goal is not to be the Anthony Robbins of your office, but perhaps with some work, you can take your game up a notch.
Here’s how to make professional connections.
Focus on first impressions and non-verbal behavior
Communication is both verbal and nonverbal. We don’t only send messages with words, but also with our behavior, expressions, and tone of voice. When making a first impression, be sure to have good posture, shake hands firmly, use a clear and confident tone of voice, and make eye contact.
Nonverbal communication is the real key to gauging what someone is thinking and how they are feeling, so make sure you’re sending the right message from the get go.
Adapt to match their behavior and emotions
To make a connection with someone, be aware of their state of mind and personality. Matching and mirroring others characteristic no-verbal behavior is a wonderful way to build rapport. When some mirrors our expressions, such the way we sit and move, it can feel like they’re similar and relate to us.
This offers a feeling of comfort and safety, where it becomes easier for the other person to open-up and act natural.
In general, gauge how the other person is feeling from their expression, posture, or tone of voice, and try to connect on their level.
For instance, have you ever been extremely tired and someone with boundless energy comes around talking a mile per minute? It can be irritating and obnoxious.
We simply like people who we connect with and who are like us. Building rapport through non-verbal behavior is a key to building trust and getting positive results from others.
Mutual Respect is Crucial
Learning to be assertive is very important for healthy relationships. Assertiveness is a way of communicating with mutual respect. We show respect to others while at the same time not compromising self-respect. Don’t get aggressive and belittle others, and similarly don’t be a passive pushover and accept disrespectful treatment.
Here’s how to get our needs meet while still respecting the needs of others.
- Learning how to organize assertive statements
- Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements
- Be willing to listen and stay calm
- State the facts and focus on the problem
- Express personal thoughts, feeling, and opinions reflecting ownership
- Use clear direct requests or commands when you want others to do something rather than being vague or indirect.
We all have a personal bubble
Understand people have different boundaries. Everybody has a comfort level of how close they are willing to get to others emotionally and physically. Some people have more rigid boundaries and are not open to getting close to people they don’t know. Someone with rigid boundaries may be difficult to get to know or seem uninterested, but in the long-run these can be very loyal friends and colleagues.
Other people have very open boundaries and are willing to get close and be more personal. These people have no problem being open and expressing their personal feelings.
Understanding these differences can be helpful in dealing with people in professional situations. If you have very open boundaries be careful not to offend others. You may want to test the waters and be a little more reserved at first.
Similarly, if you’re a little closed off, you may need to work on being more assertive and staking your claim if you desire to network and expand your influence.
The goal is to be balanced. First learn to understand your own boundaries and know what you feel comfortable with. Then approach others with their personal bubble in mind.
Find similarities and know people’s interests
Find what you have in common with people in order to build rapport and establish a relationship. This helps to navigate the numerous social interactions we have each day, and helps to stand out as someone who considers and pays attention to others.
For instance, by remembering peoples’ interests you’ll know that:
Pam is the music lady, Rob loves talking about astrology, and Frank is always focused on sports.
You get the point. By knowing what others are interested in, you can make it about them and get them to open-up and start connecting. Everyone enjoys talking about themselves and their interests, so make it about others.
Don’t forget to be real
It’s never advised to try and be someone you’re not, however at times we must adapt and utilize our social intelligence in order to build relationships and manage conflict.
When incorporating the above ideas don’t forget to be authentic. If you seem unnatural, all the focus will be drawn to your awkward behavior instead of making a natural connection. Start practicing the tips and little by little they will become more natural.
Similarly, it’s important to actually care about talking to others and have a positive attitude in process. Take a sincere interest in others, show respect, and act natural, and you’ll be making connections and networking in no time.