02 Jul Rapport building for introverts
Rapport building for introverts
Initial rapport building can be a struggle for some introverts.
It’s not that they can’t build rapport (they can be great at it) and it certainly isn’t that they don’t like talking to people (introverts value conversation and relationships as much as extroverts): its just they can find the initial superficial, chit-chat side of meeting new people uncomfortable and energy-sapping. Whilst much of the advice about rapport building applies equally to introverts and extroverts (smile, use names, active listening, be positive, find commonalities, mirror and match), you might also find yourself under pressure to act more like an extrovert with demands like ‘more energy’, ‘ask them how their weekend was’ etc.
This sort of advice can lead to stressful, uncomfortable situations and will only get you so far. Introverts should be encouraged to play to their strengths both in terms of broader networking and business development (through 1-to-1s rather than events for instance) and also when building rapport in face-to-face situations.
Introverts’ strategy 1: Focus on your objectives
Many introverts feel uncomfortable in networking or initial rapport-building situations, and a common thought/feeling is ‘what am I doing here?’. Whilst many extroverts have a natural urge to meet new people and ‘just chat’, introverts lack the same urge. So what are they doing there?
It can helps to focus on specific objectives: meeting certain people, having specific conversations, finding out about people, creating opportunities for follow ups etc.. This is one reason why introverts can be so good at networking: they just do what they need to do; focus on their objectives and the process, rather than getting distracted by social gossip.
Introverts’ strategy 2: Find an environment you are comfortable in
Do you always find yourself in the kitchen at parties?
Fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. It is quieter. You can hear yourself think and can actually have a decent conversation with someone in a more relaxed setting.
Introverts are generally more comfortable in one-to-one situations than in groups, even of 3 or 4. Things are quieter, slower, more relaxed. Less crowded, less competitive.
If you need to build rapport with either people, or a particular client, the environment matters. If you can choose a quiet venue for a one-to-one, that’s great, Or in a networking event stand to the side and look for conversations with individuals rather than joining groups. Not only will you be more comfortable, you are likely to have a better, more interesting conversation. DON’T force yourself into uncomfortable large groups.
Introverts’ strategy 3: Only ask questions where you are interested in the answer
Introverts are great listeners, so play to your strengths: ask questions and then listen to the answers. Listening is a great way to build rapport, so always prepare a few good questions before you need to build rapport.
The advantage that extroverts have is that they seem to be genuinely curious about everyone they meet – or at least in getting to know everyone on a superficial level.
How are you? Did you enjoy the game? How do you know ‘x’? How’s the weekend going? How long are you in Brisbane? What do you think of the venue?
Who cares? (Introverts often don’t)
But the standard advice in rapport building is to ask these questions, which puts introverts in the painful situation of being trapped in a conversation they have no interest in.
Instead of putting themselves through this hell, introverts should find some alternatives.
First, you DON’T have to ask these superficial questions in initial rapport building. Smile! Introduce yourself! Handshake! and then. . . . . ask a more interesting question! Take control!
- What are your views on ‘x’?
- How is the restructure affecting you?
- What are you hoping to get out of this event?
And be ready with some even more interesting or direct follow-ups:
- and how do you feel about that?
- And what does that mean for you personally?
Finding some interesting questions to ask can take some preparation time, but it really pays off. If it’s a group or networking event, people will find interesting questions refreshing and you will be remembered more readily. If you already know who you will be meeting, do some research and thinking:
- What do you know about them?
- What are you curious about?
The main message is to not be pressured into acting like an extrovert in order to build rapport. Many people, including extroverts, actually warm to – and build rapport with – quieter, gentler, more interesting introverts a lot quicker than they might other extroverts. You have to be there, and you have to make contact, but be yourself and be comfortable.
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