It is not difficult for others to have a good impression of us when they first meet us. However, we have to understand that establishing, sustaining and increasing rapport with someone begins with acceptance. While this may seem like a simple concept to understand, it is actually very complex in reality. This is because there is a substantial number of factors that are involved for an individual /group to accept another. These factors include mutual respect and trust, altruism, an ability to circumvent personal psychological barriers, removing filters to communications and practising tolerance as well as understanding.
Having an acceptance of others is not possible in the absence of even one of the abovementioned factors. This is the reason why the concept of acceptance is easy to understand but challenging to apply in our daily lives.
However, we can practise to be more accepting of others in the following three areas:
- Speech: When we are talking to others, it’s best to use the terms “we” rather than “I”. But this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We also need to consider the feelings and emotions of others when we respond to our conversations with others. This means – to a certain degree- some quick-thinking as well as an ability to put ourselves in others’ shoes (based on the responses that we intend to give) before giving our replies to the other parties. This is important as words – once spoken – cannot be taken back. However, making an effort not to offend is not enough to build a strong rapport. We need to find similarities (in interests or hobbies) such that we are able to connect with others. If this is not possible, demonstrating an intent to accept the other party’s interests/hobbies or lifestyle works just as well. Some examples that follow will demonstrate this.
- Body language: Our forebears have survived through the ages in the absence of languages. This clearly illustrates the fact that body language (or nonverbal cues) takes precedence when it comes to interpersonal communication as compared to linguistic communication. Acceptance of others can be demonstrated through body language. We will look at some examples below.
- Situations/ Circumstances: Out of the three factors, our changing situations and circumstances is the only factor that is not within our control. However, this does not imply that there’s nothing that we can do about it. In fact, with some quick thinking, we are often able to use situations/circumstances to display our acceptance of others. It’s important that we should not – at any time – be manipulative or even opportunistic. You will see some instances below.
Now, let’s have a look at several examples that illustrate this. As you read the examples, try to put yourself in the shoes of the individual(s) in the situation.
- You submit your proposal to your boss, and his/her reply is “This is not what I want. Please redo the entire proposal.” How will you feel? Now, how will you feel if your boss’s reply is “This proposal can be further improved. But it is a very good effort, nevertheless. Keep up the good work!”?
- You and your friend of an opposite gender (whom you have a romantic interest in) are teased about having a romantic relationship and his/her face suddenly goes straight. How do you feel? Now, how will you feel if he/she has turned to look at you and said this: “Haha! This is interesting. I always feel that you are a person with a good heart and deserve someone better, you know?”
- A colleague is walking towards you with a tray in his/her hands. Upon seeing you, he/she hesitates for a while before moving reluctantly towards your table. How do you feel? What if your colleague hesitates, but gives you a smile before approaching your table instead? How do you feel now?
- You are standing with a friend on a train, facing each other. Just when you are about to initiate a conversation, your friend closes his/her eyes and ignores you. How do you feel? What if you friend informs you that he/she is tired but still makes the effort to be awake to engage you in a conversation because he/she finds you to be a good person? How do you feel now?
- You are happy that someone whom you have a romantic interest in has asked you out, thinking that it may be the start of a blossoming relationship, when he/she tells you that he/she is attached and the reasons why he/she has called you out is because of boredom since their other half is not available at that point in time. How do you feel? What if he/she has informed you of the situation before meeting up to clear the air, further adding that the reason you are approached is because you are a person with a good heart and will understand? How do you feel now?
- You sent a SMS to a friend who always takes 3 days to reply. And out of a sudden, you receive a SMS from this friend not to ask after you but to enquire on behalf of his/her friends about the best restaurant to dine. How do you feel? What if this person explains to you the reason for his/her constant late SMSes as well as the fact that your immense interest and experience in fine dining is the reason that your expertise is highly sought after? How do you feel now?
It has sometimes been said that that “people only like others who like them”. This statement is true. And one of the ways that we can show others that we like them is to show them that we have accepted them. Anything that reeks of rejection (be it verbal, written or behavioural) runs counter to one’s endeavour to establish, sustain and increase rapport.
This is something that all communicators should be mindful of.