In today’s post, Alan is going away from the standard authority post. Instead, he asks a lot of questions that are related to networking and interacting with other online entrepreneurs.
I think this is an important read because you CAN’T run an Internet business without building relationships. So read through Alan’s article and leave your thoughts in the comments section below…
If you’ll permit me I will not be writing a very ‘authoritative’ post here, rather I’d like to explore something with you – the idea of rapport.
Well, not so much rapport, more the lack of it – or at least the question of whether it’s there or not. Online.
Why Does This Matter for Online Business?
Again, I can’t really be too authoritative about this as far as online business goes, except to say that I bet it does matter. What I can tell you is that it certainly does matter in ‘physical world’ business.
I know, for example, that if I want a good long term relationship with a client, then I have to meet him or her – at least once. Sure, it’s possible to have a great relationship without a face-to-face meeting, but I know that if I want the relationship to be everything it can be, if I want to build rapport and therefore trust, we need to meet in person.
What is Rapport and Why is it So Important?
Rapport is when you build a kind of ‘bond’ with someone, it’s a connection, the feeling that you’re on the same wavelength. People who have a good understanding of rapport, who know how to build it (yes, there are ways to build rapport if it’s not there) and to recognise it can really use this to their advantage.
Often in a business sense good rapport might be a green light to propose something whereas a lack of rapport would be an indication that it would be a bad time to propose that same thing, (particularly if it involved your client paying money for something).
How to Recognise Rapport
There are several sub-conscious things that we do when we get along with people (or if we don’t). Believe it or not there are many ‘signals’ which we all give off all of the time, through the cadence of our speech, the tonality of our voice, our body language and even changes in the pigments of our skin!! All of these are outward indicators which someone who understands this idea of rapport can ‘read’ to tell them how a particular relationship or conversation is going.
I say ‘indicators’ because these signs must be taken in context (e.g. someone you’re talking to with their arms folded across their chest may well be feeling defensive but if you’re standing outside in the middle of winter they may just be cold).
How to Build Rapport
Without going into too much detail here, if we can recognise rapport, i.e. what makes us feel comfortable with others, then we can also build rapport by changing our own behaviour to make others feel more comfortable with us. This will usually be along the lines of matching their behaviour, expressions or maybe just by paying attention and actively listening to what they are saying.
‘Tells’ can Give You Away
So all of these signs or ‘Tells’ can give away your true feelings and to some extent, your thoughts.
A Brief Experiment
- Smile your biggest smile.
- Keep smiling that smile and try and think of something negative.
Difficult? It should have been if you did it properly. That is because our minds are programmed to associate smiling with being happy. You can also try this simple experiment the opposite way round:
- Think of something negative.
- Smile your biggest smile.
Chances are this way round that the negative thought either disappeared or didn’t feel so bad once you’d been smiling for a few seconds.
Our minds and body language are programmed and re-programmed through years of repetition.
A Quick Poker Analogy
In poker, top players look for such ‘Tells’ in their opponents. In fact, if you were to watch the World Series of Poker when it gets down to the last few tables, you might notice that some players have very peculiar habits, eccentricities and even strange toys and mascots to try and throw their opponents. Some of them even wear kagoules with the hoods up and pulled tight to hide as much of their body and face as possible – so others can’t ‘read’ them.
Yet despite these tells being a huge part of the game, people do play poker online. In fact the online poker industry is HUGE. You can’t see anyones face in online poker. I am told that there are equivalent ‘tells’ in online poker – the rhythm of a game, the time someone takes to play their hands, previous hands won or lost, time spent at each table, how many tables they’re playing at one time, their online name, things they type in the chat box, the amount of chips they have in the game and the amount they enter the game with… One thing is for sure, there are a lot of people making a LOT of money from online poker. Some have given up very well paid careers to do so.
Back to Rapport
So my question is this:
If rapport exists and is an important part of relationship building in business, what is the equivalent online?
There are plenty of tools giving endless possibilities for interaction but which ones are the best for building genuine rapport? Is it just a case of taking the time to send more personalised messages? Is it what is actually said? The number of interactions?
Rapport is not something you buy or trade and the strange thing about it is between some people it can take seconds whilst between others it can take years. So what is the closest thing we have to rapport online and how important is it for online business?
One (Obvious) Thing We Could Do To Build Rapport Online
(and Why it Wasn’t Obvious To Me)
Well, I was going to leave this article open ended and hope for some comments on the matter as I’m really not the expert. However today (=time of writing today, not publication date today) I did get a little guidance from a skype call I had with Annie Andre of AnnieAndre.com. This may seem a little obvious to you but let me tell you what happened.
I was due to have this call with Annie and for some reason was expecting audio only. I looked a mess too which I always thought was one of the advantages of online business. Anyway, I hit the call button and when Annie answered she appeared on my screen. I was actually surprised but went ahead and clicked the video button so she could see me too.
Now I’m not exactly a shy person I’m just not used to video skyping people. Even my closest friends, I will usually just speak to on the phone. Why do I need to see their faces? I know what they look like.
So why was that so weird to me? Just because I’m not used to it. Taking a business contact out for a meal or a drink I am completely used to, even if I don’t know them too well. That may seem weird to some people. Video calling with skype is something I’ve done to show relatives my kids, but it just never occurred to me that even if I don’t speak to close friends or family via video calls, for modern online business, this is something I might need to start doing more with new contacts I don’t know too well at all – to get to know them better.
A Kind of Conclusion and Over To You
That’s it. That’s all I’m going to write on the subject for the moment. I could tell you plenty about rapport, how wonderful it is, how to build rapport, howtonetworkeffectively and how to use rapport to overcome conflicts – but for the physical, offline world. As far as how this translates in the online world, that’s where I need your help.
I guess a kind of conclusion I’m reaching is that just because we’re online, that doesn’t mean we can afford to be anonymous. Relationships still count, and rapport (or it’s online equivalent) is an important part of building those relationships. Maybe skype video is the best way to achieve this (thanks Annie) and there is actually one more tool I’ve discovered which might help but I’d love to hear if you have more or other thoughts on the matter, so leave me a comment and I’ll tell you about that one too…
You can find Alan at Life’s Too Good, a blog about helping you gain more out of life and enjoy it to its fullest. Featured sections include Being Your Own Life Coach, Improve Your Health, Getting More for Your Money, and Free Business Coaching. Alan is also an accomplished writer and you can actually watch him write his latest book, ‘Lessons From The City’ at a new site he just created: www.lessonsfromthecity.com.To Your "Internet Lifestyle",