Storytelling and Building Rapport

www.ted.comIf you’re not familiar with Ted.com, get in there now – but be careful! These up-to-20-minute presentations are highly engaging and addictive. They’re stories told by people with a passion and often a profession in the field of medicine, environmental science, the arts and business.

Ted Talks have become very useful not only as a source of entertainment but also as a learning tool. The Ted style of storytelling is effective yet highly diverse in style, so, you might ask yourself, how could I ever learn to communicate like that?

I speak to a lot of people – managers and students – about corporate-level English and one of the main communication skills needing change is the increase the confidence levels towards being able to more effectively building rapport with clients and colleagues.

I remember what this was like. I lived in France for a number of years and my French was good but, even when it was at its best, I still felt that there was part of my personality missing in French. There was still part of me that I couldn’t easily communicate to those around me. This not only knocked my confidence but also knocked my ability to have that easy, casual conversation that usually leads to making others feel at ease, which leads into building rapport and then trust and later friends.

Don’t worry, I did eventually make some friends but it took much more effort in French than it normally does in English.

I am convinced that one way to put others at ease and build rapport, whether in a personal or a business situation, is to have a handle on a couple of personal stories that you can pull out in different situations.

Start looking around you at people who handle social situations well and see what stories they tell about themselves. It can be tricky finding the right story for the right situation but start by observing and then give it a shot.

Ted Talks are fabulous for this. The speakers often integrate personal experience and story into their talks. Take a look at these ones and let me know if you find any others that you think use this theory too.

Elif Shafak – The politics of fiction

Brené Brown – The power of vulnerability

Andrew Stanton – The clues to a great story

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story

 

The Elephant in the Room

131209 elephant-in-the-room imageIf English is your second language it can be common to be nervous in client meetings. It is also common that your client might be a little nervous too.

The possibility of not being understood or not understanding what someone else says often creates tensions on both sides of the conversation.

A good way to diffuse all this discomfort, is to acknowledge the elephant in the room, which will hopefully put both parties more at ease to getting down to business, building rapport and focusing on what is important. You might say something like,

“As you might be able to guess, English is not my first language so I want you to feel comfortable to ask for clarification if you don’t understand anything I say and, similarly, I will ask you any questions if there is something I am unsure about.”

If your client feels confident that you will go away making sure you understand the situation fully and that they are free to ask questions for clarification, you will both have greater confidence in each other and your professionalism will shine.