How to Bridge the Distance Between You and Someone Else

by Henrik Edberg


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.

If you found this article helpful, please share it on Facebook, Twitter and Stumbleupon. Thank you very much! =)





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{ 22 comments }

Dominic Knower February 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Hey Henrik

It’s a really important topic and I think your ideas for bridging the gap are super cool! I used the friend mindset when speaking to an X girlfriend – except we were obviously best mates at one point and so I go that into my head, conversation was then easy! I find that solid eye contact, a friendly smile and a general engaging attitude works well when building those bridges.

Cheers Henrik

David February 21, 2011 at 10:41 pm

I love the idea of assuming rapport. When you first meet someone and are sort of nervous that isn’t who you are as a person. “Just be yourself” Who would have ever thought that would be something difficult for us to do.

You are absolutely right in saying that we can choose what we feel and think most of the time. It just requires one to be strong minded. And like a muscle, the mind can only grow strong with practice and repetition. Great article, and thanks for the tips.

Jonas February 21, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Thank you so much for your tips on gaining rapport. I will try these out immediately.

One thing that has helped me in the past was to practice acceptance, in a practical sense.

Two quotes that resonate quite strongly with me are:

“The distance from another is the distance from ourselves.” – Richard Moss

“If you cannot accept what is outside, then accept what is inside. Do not resist the pain. Allow it to be there. Witness it without labeling it mentally. Embrace it.” – Eckhart Tolle

The first quote means to me that any issue we have with another person is an issue we have with ourselves. It is the projection of our own shadow onto the other person that let’s us react, not the other person himself.

The second quote I find applies very well for cases in which I have difficulty accepting another person or a situation. I can just step back a little and instead accept, embrace my reaction.

Thank you for the inspiration,

Jonas

John Sherry February 22, 2011 at 3:43 pm

See yourself in other people – oh yes Henrik, very, very true. Every time I’ve had a major fall out with someone close it’s because they are reflecting part of me back…and I don’t like it hence my anger. It reminds me of the old quote that goes along the lines of, ‘if those who advocate war were to first look in the mirror, then they would see who they are really fighting’.

Marissa February 23, 2011 at 7:03 am

Its a good article. Im new to your work but i love it so far. everything is very straightforward and simple. if only simple meant easy. lol. While im not the shy type my outgoing personality doesnt give me instant social skills. i cross the line alot and i word things horribly 90% of the time. but hey im working on it. I have 2 quotes i would like to share as well…

“life is only 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

I have been feeling that one alot lately. I notice that there are so many times every day that i see myself or a friend taking someting as a personal attack or jumping to negative conclusions when really theres nothing wrong. this of course turns into huge arguments and very angry people when all it would take to make it stop is a simple moment to realize that the reaction we have doesnt have to be negative, we can just as easily find something positive in the situation to focus on. as my friend would say “you can be happy in the same shoes you can be mad in”

another statement ive been focusing on is from my sister. she told me recently that change only comes when we are consciously aware of what we are doing that causes tension and make the conscious effort to redirect the thoughts or behaviors that get us into those situations. she really should be a shrink. lol. she also told me something about arguments. she said its not so important WHAT you are arguing about but HOW you argue. if we keep the level of respect with friends and loved ones that we would show to an employer disagreements are much easier to resolve than if we let our emotions control our mouths and escalate the situation into a senseless fight.

good work, keep it up. i hope my imput can be helpful to some of you. :) )

Peter G. James Sinclair February 23, 2011 at 9:54 am

Loved your article Henrik.

My dad taught me a lot of things – but one thing he taught me about the subject you cover in your post is this…

He or she who helps others helps himself or herself. Give and it will be given back to you. This is a law and should become a daily part of our lives.

As a writer of motivational material, I have found that the more I write to encourage others, the more I am encouraged and the more inspiration I receive to write.

So don’t be on the lookout to always get. Be on the hunt to give, and in your giving be generous, for a generous heart will always be full and overflowing.

Henrik Edberg February 23, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Thank you for the comments and your insights, guys. Glad to hear that you found the article helpful! :)

Shanie Matthews February 23, 2011 at 8:03 pm

I loved the article Henrik!

I completely agree…going into a situation seeing positivity is a great tool for meeting new people. I also liked the idea of pretending everyone you see is your friend.

Another one I like to do is to smile at everyone I pass on the street, or come into contact with. It’s amazing how a smile will brighten a person’s day. (:

Anthony March 5, 2011 at 7:50 am

yeah, I also liked the idea of viewing others as your friend, because many times many of us look on everyone with such a look that is un-inviting and is a turn off.

Casey Cheng February 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I tend to find that our minds often projects an impression of the reaction of the other person (such as, for example when you are delivering bad news to your boss) as compared to how we would usually react in that particular circumstance.

As such, ‘seeing yourself in the other person’ actually creates a bridge in easing your thoughts to the other person as you already ‘know’ how the person would react if you relate the particular news to him/her.

Even if the reaction might not concur with the impression created in your mind, you have already crossed the first hurdle by creating a ‘preliminary’ rapport with that other person, thus easing corresponding conversation.

Justin February 24, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Rapport techniques are very useful in many areas of life. I use this when I want to make a connection with someone who may be able to add value in my life. Also anybody that I do business with, it keeps the relationship positive.

ritche February 25, 2011 at 1:04 am

Thanks for the article. Taking a positive approach in meeting a new people will be a great help to establish rapport. I am on sales job and meeting new people always is very common with me. I armored myself with a smile, respect and a sense of humor.

Jeff Kaiserman February 25, 2011 at 6:19 am

Henrik – I believe that beyond seeing yourself in others, it takes seeing that you and others are ONE. Understanding that we are all connected, and truly believing it, eliminates all but love between people. Once we see that we are one, we are one step closer.

Chris Ginsburg February 25, 2011 at 8:30 am

Worrying about how things will go is always a recipe for disaster. Let your communication flow from the heart and all will work out.

Dario Da Ponte February 25, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Hi,

I would love to add that as you practice, you literally
change your nervous system and the reactions that
would divide becofore, by and by become weaker and
weaker – what we focus on mold our body so that
the reality you want to create become the blueprint
within.

great article,

thank you!

Dario
http://www.coreawakening.org

zeus February 27, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Positive thinking brings positive results and when you make other people feel comfortable around you they tend to open up more easily to you.

Poul Andreassen March 1, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Excellent article : )It is amazing to know that there are articles like this on web.

Eva March 6, 2011 at 10:19 am

The idea of assuming rapport is pretty amazing, and works well, too – I’ve been using this kind of technique subconciously and it has helped me a lot. Sure, there are some people who will think you are weird – but do they matter? Being relaxed and easy-going is exactly what we need to do to build a good relationship!

Social Natural March 7, 2011 at 11:32 am

Henrik, assuming rapport is also a thing we use in the dating world to assume rapport with our date. It closes a lot of gap and makes the other person, who is secretly just as nervous as you are more comfortable. Social dynamics interaction is a 2-way channel flow, if one person is not contributing or disrupting the flow with negative-energy the other person would pick it up and the interaction would be stall, so it’s up to that one person to redirect the interaction back to a positive-state.

Nikki Star - Stripped Canvas March 8, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Wow, I love this post. Everything you’ve said is exactly how I’ve felt at one point or another.
It is true we can see ourselves in everyone if we try, if we are aware of it.

Eric Inderbitzen March 16, 2011 at 9:54 am

Thank You Henrik,

Assuming rapport opens up the communication channels between people and instills a natural affinity into the conversation. Two of the most important steps toward creating a reality with someone new.

arina nikitina March 16, 2011 at 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. :)

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