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How to Bridge the Distance Between You and Someone Else


Image by nattu (license).

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Today I would like to share three of my favorite tips for making it easier to establish a relationship with someone. Maybe in a new class. On a date. At work or in a job interview. Or at some party next weekend.

Assume rapport.

This one can work quickly. That is, if you can suspend your disbelief for while and keep your mind open. It won’t work if you don’t think it will work.

So, what is assuming rapport?

Basically, instead of going into a conversation or meeting nervously and thinking “how will this go?” you take different approach. You assume that you and the person(s) will establish a good connection (rapport).

How do you do that? Just before the meeting, you just think/pretend that you’ll be meeting a good friend. Then you’ll naturally slip into a more comfortable, confident and enjoyable emotional state and frame of mind. In this state of mind the conversation tends to flow more naturally too, without much thinking. Just like with your friends.

I have used this small tip many dozens of times by now and have found it surprisingly useful and easy to implement. It’s a sort of variation of acting as you would like to feel.

This tip also helps you and the other people to set a good frame for the interaction. A frame is always set at the start of an interaction. It might be a nervous and stiff frame, a formal and let’s-get-to-the-point kind of frame or perhaps a super relaxed one. The thing is that the frame that is set in the beginning of the conversation is often one that may stay on for a while. First impressions can last for quite some time.

Now, meeting your best friend might not always be the best thing to think about before a meeting at school/work. In that case you may want to try to imagine a similar meeting that went well and your interactions with the people there.

But what if you come off as a weird person? Well, that is always a risk in the beginning when you start using this tip. But I believe that most of the time such thoughts are only in your head. No one likes awkward and uncomfortable interactions. So if you just assume rapport immediately then most people that may have been nervous/felt awkward will adapt to your more comfortable and relaxed frame.

This is also a quick way to reconnect with the mental and emotional state your friends might be referring to when they give you the classic advice to “just be yourself”.

See yourself in other people.

“Who sees all beings in his own self, and his own self in all beings, loses all fear.”
Isa Upanishad, Hindu Scripture

The ego wants to divide your world. It wants to create barriers, separation and loves to play the comparison game. The game where people are different compare to you, the game where you are better than someone and worse than someone else. All of that creates fear in social situations. Doing the opposite removes fear.

That there is no real separation between beings, that we are one and the same, might sound a bit corny.

But one thought you may want to try for a day is that everyone you meet is your friend. You do this practically by using the previous tip.

Another idea is to see what parts of yourself you can see in someone you meet.

As I mentioned above, there is pretty much always a frame set in any interaction. It may make you and the others feel awkward or comfortable. But underlying such feelings is a frame of mind.

Either it asks us how we are different from this person. Or how we are the same as this person. The first frame is based in how the ego likes to judge people and create separation to strengthen itself (either through feeling better or more like a victim). The second one creates warmth, an openness and curiosity within. There is no place to focus on fear or judgement anymore.

Practise.

Although the two ideas above can be very useful, the most important thing – as with anything – is practise. By doing things and learning from mistakes, failures and successes you can improve any part of your life. Your social skills too.

But just reading some tips will not magically improve any of your skills or transform you in some way. You do that yourself by being patient and persistent.

One interesting thing I have discovered after having been interested in personal development, positive thinking etc. for a few years now is that over time you can improve what may be called emotional and mental flexibility.

What I mean by that is that you don’t become so identified with your current thoughts and emotions. You realize that they are just there right now but will not be there forever. You stop being so reactive to what happens in your surroundings and stop thinking that you need to feel/think a specific way in a specific situation.

What you feel and think becomes more of a choice. Just like you can choose to turn right or left while walking. I don’t use assuming rapport in the way I mentioned above that much anymore. I have slipped into that emotional state so many times by now I can just recall how it feels to be relaxed and comfortable and choose to put myself in that state. It doesn’t work all the time of course, but most of the time it does.

But if you have been totally identified with your feelings and thoughts for decades then it can be hard snap out of that. Choosing how you think and feel may sound kinda stupid or impossible.

That is why you need to practise. To convince itself and to silence your inner doubts your mind needs proof that this stuff actually works for you. The proof is the experiences you have.

And by practise I mean using, for example, assuming rapport a couple of dozen times. Not two or three times.

By being open and believing that this stuff works and by practising it over and over – just like a tennis serve – it become easier and easier to do it.

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  • arina nikitina March 16, 2011, 11:57 pm

    Hello Henrik! Like Marissa, I firmly believe how we react or take what happens around us makes for the large part of who we really are. So as far as bridging the distance, it’s the same. People who love life and want to live life would reach out and work on it until things get beyond control. On the other hand, people who likes to wallow in negativity would wait for things to happen. :)