► 4. Find a topic that turns on the other person.
There’s always something that the other person would LOVE to talk about. Find it and bring it up. It works like magic.
On a cruise my wife and I were seated with an elderly couple, just the four of us, for seven days. My first attempts at building rapport and conversation totally failed. No matter what I asked, I got one-word responses.
When I asked about where they lived, they answered “Florida.” When I asked about work, they said, “Retired.” When I asked about children or grandchildren, they said, “None.” And so forth went the entire first tortuous evening.
However, I was not deterred. I believe the best conversationalists have an endless curiosity about everything and I am always curious. My wife has even nicknamed me “Curious George” after the little monkey cartoon character. And I know that everyone has a story they’re itching to tell. I simply had to find the right topic.
I found that topic at our second evening meal. I asked about the work they did prior to retirement. And their faces lit up. They had been flower merchants in Holland, loved the work, and missed the work. And thus started an intriguing conversation about the flower industry that lasted the entire week. Indeed we built so much rapport that we continued to send Christmas cards to each other for several years afterwards.
Of course, when I talk about bringing up a topic that turns on the other person, I’m not advocating one-way communication. You will obviously have to tell the other person some things about yourself and answer some questions he or she may ask. However, don’t go on too long about yourself as you are attempting to build rapport. Turn the conversation around by asking, “How about you?”
Final Thought: Relationships can be fun, energizing, helpful, and profitable, but none of that will ever happen if you fail to build rapport first.