Monday Mornings with Madison


Almost all of us want to be liked and this is especially true in the business world, where so much depends upon building relationships with customers and clients. Some people try to be likeable by being funny or entertaining but while this may work in a social setting, it is less successful in a corporate environment. When it comes to business, people want to work with the people they trust, and you don’t build trust with a sense of humor. The ability to make people laugh can serve as a good ice breaker but it’s not going to build a business relationship.

The secret to being liked is to be truly interested in people. You need to connect with others so that they feel you understand them: you “get” them.  The psychology of the human brain is such that a feeling of being understood slides imperceptibly into a feeling of trust. It’s a very simple secret but it’s not that easy to act on. Only con artists can fake interest for very long — that’s how they succeed. The rest of us eventually return to our own self-interest. Rather than focus on the other person’s needs and interests, we start thinking, “What can I get from this? How does this relate to me?”

Let’s look at a few tips that will help you stay focused on the other person:

Listen!            Most people are so busy with themselves that they barely listen to others.
The clearest sign of interest is when someone truly listens to what’s being said. This alone tends to build trust and confidence.

Be curious      As human beings, we are naturally curious creatures but we’re generally so involved with ourselves that we don’t have the time or energy to discover all the fascinating qualities of those around us. The solution is to actively reinforce your curiosity about other people. Each individual has a unique life story and a different way of looking at things. See how much you can find out about them.

Find common ground            No matter how different we may seem from one another, we still have things in common, whether it’s a like or dislike, a shared experience, or simply being in the same place at the same time. Finding and discussing these common points creates a sense of rapport and familiarity. But be careful not to make assumptions too quickly.  Let’s say that you both like playing golf but as you get into the conversation, the other person reveals that they enjoy golf because the game allows them to get together with friends. You, on the other hand, are competitive and enjoy beating others at the game. This is not true common ground. You might want to find something that you too enjoy doing with friends and talk about this activity instead.

Keep asking questions           Ask open-ended questions and then really pay attention to the answers. You’ll find that others are happy to share their thoughts and feelings with you and you’ll then better understand how to work with them.

Pace and mirror         We all have our own style of talking and moving. Some people talk slowly and quietly, while others talk loudly and quickly.  Pay attention to the way others communicate and see if you can match their tone and style when starting a conversation. This helps to establish a comfortable rhythm between the two of you. As you build rapport, you can naturally revert to your own style and your partner will follow you along.           

Don’t reserve these tips solely for your business conversations — start practicing them today. For the next couple of days, ask open-ended questions of the people around you and then pay attention to the answers. You’ll be surprised by the positive response you’ll receive.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”   Ralph Nichols

© 2008 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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