She came into my training workshop, and from the look on her face I knew she'd be trouble - the one to challenge me throughout the day.
She sat heavily and let out a sigh, glancing disdainfully at the training materials in front of her. “Yep, ” I thought to myself, “there’s always one”.
As I got the day underway, I could hear her muttering in a critical tone to the guy beside her. I asked participants to share one word they associated with "influential communication". Someone said "apprehensive", others used equally tentative language. What did she say? "Confident" - and I didn’t doubt her for a second. This lady thought she already knew everything about the subject matter, and I hadn’t begun.
Later, when I asked the group to stand and change seats, guess who doggedly stayed put and let everyone move around her. I tried to joke about it and she rolled her eyes and offered smugly: “Well, why should I move when everybody else is moving?”
Despite my one problem child, the day was going well. During the lunch break I stole five minutes of sitting time in a quiet corner and was surprised to see her approaching me.
“Sitting on your own isn’t a good look,” she started and my heart sank. I thought, "Great, I’ve managed to snatch a few moments of peace and she's about to ruin it."
We chatted and she loosened up a little. I asked which floor of the building she worked on and she responded that she normally worked from home as she lived some distance away. I asked where, and we then had one of those interactions where the other person keeps repeating "you're kidding me!" Not only did we live in the same suburb of the same regional city - more than an hour away from the training location - we lived around the corner from each other.
From that instant, our relationship transformed. Next thing, she was laughing and telling me what she did on the weekend, and we were comparing notes about living in a wonderful part of the world away from the bustling city.
The afternoon session took on a completely different flavour. Far from being the thorn in my side, she became my greatest ally; offering supportive comments and happily taking part in all the discussions.
At the end, when everyone was sharing what they’d taken away from the day, she was enthusiastic in describing her key learnings and what she would apply. It was a massive turn around.
Pondering it later, one word stood out in my mind. Rapport.
It’s so easy to form a negative impression of someone in the first few seconds of encounter. By finding something that connects us as humans - in this case accidentally - we can achieve great things.
Often, our day-to-day busy-ness gets in the way of building rapport with those around us. We race in and out of meetings and have rapid-fire conversations where we quickly say our piece and escape. Taking a few seconds to go deeper and explore the element you have in common with can make a significant difference to everything you do.
What can you do today to build rapport? You'll also be strengthening trust and nurturing valuable relationships that can power you towards shared results.