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Have you ever had a time when you just couldn't connect with someone? Maybe you just couldn't "click" with someone attractive you were trying to talk to in a coffee shop or bookstore. Perhaps you couldn't even find the right words. Or maybe, it was a relationship partner, with whom you couldn't quite see eye-to-eye.
Whatever the case, it is common to have problems connecting with others from time to time. These failed connections weaken the relationships you have and lessen the possibility of getting new partners that you don't yet have. To love, to persuade, to relate, requires that you first establish a connection.
Luckily, there are ways of connecting. Professional therapists know the secret. It is called...
Definition: a relation marked by harmony, conformity, accord, or affinity.
You may have heard of it. No doubt if you've read a book on dating, relating, or pick-up, then you've probably seen that word. Usually, it is followed by some description about making eye contact, nodding your head, copying a partner's body movements (mirroring), and smiling. Yes, all of that is correct, but there is much more involved.
Rapport is also a perspective and way of relating to others. For therapists, it includes the following:
1) Genuineness - This means to be "real" in your relating with others. To not have a hidden agenda, hide your feelings, or lie. It requires that you are aware of your own feelings and present them to others, rather than putting on a "fake" attitude that is separate from what you are really feeling. This establishes trust in the relationship.
2) Empathy - This means to try and understand the perspective of someone else; their thoughts, emotions, needs, dreams, etc. Rather than looking at others "from the outside", empathy is trying to see the world from their point of view. It is also conveying the desire to know another person, understand them, and learn from them. This establishes freedom in the relationship.
3) Warmth - Finally, this means to be accepting and liking of others. To be non-judgmental, no matter what the other person tells you. It is to treat someone like they are valuable and with respect, no matter what their behaviors, emotions, or current condition. This establishes safety in the relationship.
Here are some examples of how those characteristics could be applied in real life...
With Someone New
Breaking the ice with someone we don't know can be difficult. Usually, we rely on something fake to do it (like a pick-up line). Instead, try being Genuine. Find something interesting and ask them about it.
- "What book are you reading?"
- "What kind of coffee is that?"
- "Are you working or playing on that computer?"
Then follow it up with something Empathetic and Warm. Something that connects with their emotions in a non-judgmental and positive way.
- "That book sounds really interesting. What parts of it do you like?"
- "I love coffee. Although the smell of it reminds me of studying all night in college lol".
- "I goof off all the time when I should be working too. It's more fun though. Have you seen the games at this website?"
In Established Relationships
When a significant other is mad at you, making peace can be a chore as well. Often, it is common to get angry, break rapport, and have a long fight. A partner may bend the truth ("I didn't pick you up from work because I was busy with something important"). Discount the other's feelings ("You're just being silly anyway"). And, judge them ("You've always been crazy").
Instead, it is possible to try for greater rapport and repair the relationship. You could be Genuine about your feelings and motives, even if they are not as safe or positive to begin with ("I didn't pick you up because I completely forgot"). Admitting to the truth, even negative, is better than living a lie. This is especially true when it is followed by Empathy ("I understand you are upset. I can see why you would be"). Furthermore, don't forget the Warmth ("I do care about you though. It was not on purpose. I'm just forgetful sometimes").
Overall, you can't go wrong with being Genuine (real), Empathetic (understanding), and Warm (accepting). It is a perspective and way of relating that is always effective - from a first "hello" through a marriage. It helps you to truly create Rapport with the ones you love (or want to).
Give it a try...and leave a comment to let me know what you think!
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Until next time...happy dating and relating!
Dr. Jeremy Nicholson
The Attraction Doctor
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© 2011 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.