by Don Morley

Build rapport

If there is to be a meeting of minds, creating the conditions for positive influence, then it is essential to first build rapport with the other party or parties. There are several four-quadrant models, all emanating from the groundwork carried out by Carl Jung, which might provide useful insights in this regard. As an example, we will take a look at the Personal Style Indicator (PSI).

What is personal style?

Personal Style Indicator (PSI).

As with many such models, extroversion and introversion are used to differentiate and form the horizontal axis. The way that people tend to focus primarily on task or on people provides the vertical axis.

  • ‘Behavioural’ types combine extroverted behaviour with a task oriented approach. They focus on objectives and results and are high on energy, action and urgency. They normally have a direct, authoritative manner, enjoying power and control.
  • ‘Affective’ types are also extroverted but more people oriented. They are concerned with good human relations, approaching others in a sociable and enthusiastic way – often manifesting itself in flexibility, ideas and options.
  • ‘Interpersonal’ characters are introverts who are caring, reliable, sensitive and supportive. They seek deeper relationships and understanding and tend to defend their values with quiet determination and persistence.
  • ‘Cognitive’ people are also introverted, but seek clarity, precision, even perfection. They think before they act and are usually thorough, prudent, analytical and objective in their approach.

Before you read each of the following recommendations, it might help if you have in mind a colleague who appears to fit into the quadrant in question. See how this fits with your experience of the way they normally react.

Building rapport with a ‘behavioural’

Getting on the same wavelength as a behavioural entails being short and to the point and focussing on the outcomes of what you are proposing. They need to feel in control, so draw their attention to the benefits for them, the action plan, the timing and how they will be kept up to date with progress.

Your influence will be hampered if you present unnecessary detail or too many possible courses of action. Changing your mind frequently, getting off the subject or anything that smacks of a waste of time – like waffling when you don’t know the answer to the question just posed – will just create unnecessary resistance.

Building rapport with an ‘affective’

Start with ‘I would like your opinion on...’ or even better, ‘can we brainstorm some options regarding...’. Affectives like to be involved, to talk and to explore the future. Using them as a sounding board will probably make them into a strong ally.

Influencing them will be an uphill job if your proposal is too structured – to them it is a straightjacket. Wanting to move too fast (before they have had time to consider all the angles) or relying on past data, which to them is largely irrelevant, are further ways in which their cooperation can be put at risk.

Building rapport with an ‘interpersonal’

Interpersonals are people oriented, so you really need to demonstrate that any implications for staff or themselves have been or, with their help, will be fully addressed. They will want to talk through your proposition, to be given the chance to be one of the team, and to be comfortable that you are sincere.

If you try to push things through, especially on the basis of facts at the expense of feelings, you may alienate them. They don’t like conflict, so will not appreciate feeling used when disagreement is rife, although they make useful arbitrators, if approached in the right way. Their sensitivity means that any heavy handed attempt to influence them now will make it twice as difficult next time around.

Building rapport with a ‘cognitive’

The cognitive has a strong preference for looking at things logically and needs time to weigh up the facts. ‘Would you consider this and come back to me...’ is talking their language. Indeed, to allow them time to reflect on what you have just said, you may need to slow down your speech. You should also wait for them to give the considered reply that is their preference. Not easy for some of the other styles!

Being too optimistic is not a good start here; the cognitive’s cautious nature is a stumbling block. Similarly, if all your focus is upon the future, they will keep coming back to the lack of underpinning data, track record, statistics, etc. Do not be impatient when they ask yet another question; they only want to be sure they understand the merits of your case.

Beware false assumptions!

It is very tempting to observe someone’s behaviour (what they say and do) and make all sorts of assumptions about what has prompted it. After all, there is an amateur psychologist lurking in most of us. But we might be wrong. When the finance director says that the proposition is too expensive, we all immediately conclude that he would have made that reply regardless of the sum involved – they just don’t like spending money do they? Our beliefs, in this case about their beliefs, get in the way of thinking rationally. Perhaps we should re-examine the cost to make sure we haven’t overlooked unnecessary expenditure.

Our beliefs affect the way we behave and we have nurtured them from very young. Our observations within the family, the type of school we went to, early years at work, public figures, sportsmen, all contribute to the beliefs we hold. These get further embedded over the years because it is tempting to mix with people who have similar beliefs to our own.

The crucial thing to remember when making efforts to influence is to suspend our notions of others’ beliefs and deal purely with their behaviour. It is unlikely we will change deep-seated beliefs, but we can change how we interact with people by truly hearing what they say and dealing with the message. How often do we hear that a person is resistant to change when all they are objecting to is the manner in which they are being forced to do so?

You can find more on Rapport here.