Getting Through To People

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Clients often ask me for tools and techniques to make them more effective in working with people. In a coaching session, whenever
we discuss and practice how to handle a particular person or situation, they usually end up recognizing that the connection is the most important thing. In this article, we will look at rapport first then how to meet opposition.

Three Keys to Establish Rapport

Even in the tensest engagement, if we find a way to establish rapport with the other, the rest of the communication will flow from that. Great tools and technique have their place but without rapport they won't do too much. Here are three keys that I have found help me establish rapport.

Key One: Notice What You Are Afraid Of

Any exchange between two human beings involves risk. We may do harm, lose reputation or miss out on opportunity. Something may
happen to take us out of our comfort zone where we won't know what to do. Where there is risk, the natural instinct is to keep
distance.

Distance gives us perspective so we can map the safest way through. Yet it makes connection harder. Some people engage with
avoidance and some with bravado. Either way rapport ain't going to happen.

Take the time to notice what is at risk, for you and for the other person. Once acknowledged, your risks won't create distance in the same way. You will likely begin to feel appreciation for who they are and for what they are doing in the face of their risks.

Key Two: Resolve The Superior-Inferior Dynamic

We create separation by upholding ourselves as special. No one has a perfectly undented self-esteem so, to feel good about who we are, we're constantly tempted to identify as better than or less than others.

As a coach or consultant, for example, my livelihood depends on having something to offer people or organizations that will help them. And I get great pleasure when good things happen for clients as a result of our work together. If I am not careful, I could easily surround myself with those I see as less whole or proficient.

My wife, Chellsa, and I make it a practice before an important call or session to help each other see how we are holding ourselves as better or worse than the other people involved. The separation resolves, not so much into "I am the same," as an enjoyment of the exquisite distinctiveness of each person's character and skills.

Key Three: Be Hungry To Meet Being-To-Being

It is possible to develop an appetite for the depth in people. On the surface, our engagements with others appear to be primarily transactional. There is information to exchange or feeling to convey; a desired outcome from each engagement. Rapport happens
inside of all of that.

Along with whatever needs to be transacted, you are just eager to discover the other and be discovered by them. Is there anything
more beautiful than to meet another in this way?

Make sure you give due attention to the desired outcome, the information and feeling that need to be conveyed in any exchange. Save some of your attention, however, for what is inside of all that: the quality of rapport you establish with another. If someone as stiff and reserved as I once was can find the way to create rapport, anyone can do it! Taking deliberate steps, such as those outlined here, can make a big difference.

How to Meet Opposition

My mentor always told me he would rather people were either hot or cold toward him, not lukewarm. You cannot do much with lukewarm response, but you can use challenge and opposition to advantage.

Some weeks the same topic keeps coming up in a number of different coaching sessions. Last week it was leaders learning, sometimes the hard way, how to meet opposition from a colleague.

The Key Word Here Is "Meet"

Most people get into trouble by failing to meet what the person is actually bringing to them. Instead they avoid the person's energy by trying to pacify, correct or fix it. Often that just makes things worse. What works for me is to recognize the emotion the person is experiencing, see where the challenge is coming from, and meet them there.

Most of us are hesitant to meet people with a strong pushback. Understandably so; as leaders or experts, we are careful with the
power differential derived from our position and, if the person is coming from pain, low esteem or self-protection, coming on strong clearly doesn't help.

There are different ways to meet each of those three types creatively, which we may touch on in future articles. This section, however, is about meeting people who were bringing their challenge in a feisty, aggressive way.

Recognize The Energy

It is easy enough to recognize when opposition is coming from this kind of feisty, aggressive energy. The language will be clean and direct, not veiled or pained. You will probably feel some feistiness rising in yourself. Under the issue the person is bringing, you will often notice it is really about them finding their place. They want to play, to contribute more in some way, and they're looking for a way in.

Typically such people got told along the way that they don't really matter. They are used to being dismissed or overpowered and are wrestling this demon right now with the current authority figure in their life: you.

What a golden opportunity. You can let them know, finally, how much they do matter. Avoiding their energy, even meeting it with all the gentle kindness of a saint, won't give them that. You have to be willing to fight a little, to engage but in a way that leaves them getting a win, so they end up honored for the truth they are seeking to bring and feel they have a place to give their gift.

The more willing we are to establish rapport and to meet opposition, the more we will find ourselves surrounded by strong people engaging in a genuinely loyal and creative way.

About the Author:

David Lesser is coach and confidant to CEO's and senior executives. He has been guiding people and organizations through crucial transitions for over 20 years. Go to ExecutiveConfidant.com . Join David's blog http://www.davidlessercoaching.com/consult.html or sign up for a free 30 minute consultation. Copyright (c) 2007 David Lesser

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