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No. 8 – Building a Bridge for Rapport

December 8, 2010

Last week I proposed three options for dealing with anger in the workplace: 1) decide to be non-defensive, 2) do not give the other person anything to push against, and 3) begin to build a bridge for rapport.

When communications break down due to conflict, differences of opinion, and anger, the situation is as if you are on one wall of a canyon and the other person is on the opposite wall. A canyon or chasm separates you and prevents effective communication. I call this the canyon of differences. These differences include beliefs, values, language, feelings, culture, race, age, sex, resistance, ethics, understanding, perceptions, prejudices, motives, roles, attitudes, and needs to control for self-preservation. With all these differences, how can we ever communicate, even under the best of circumstances? The answer is we build a bridge across the canyon of differences.

Before we can begin to build a bridge, however, we need to establish the ground represented by you and the other person. In other words, where are you and where are they? What are your needs and what does the other person have to offer? For example, you may need recognition, support, security, appreciation, and love. The other person may offer money, rewards, acceptance, and encouragement. Conversely, what are their needs and what resources do you have to offer? The other person may have needs for safety, reassurance, and winning. You may offer your intelligence, skills, experience, training, and desire to help.

The next question to ask is “What is in it for you?” For example; you could gain credibility and be seen as honest, real, and committed. You also need to consider, “What is in it for them?” They might want to be heard, to not feel discounted, and to be in control.

You can now begin to lay planks for a bridge of rapport. These planks involve establishing a common ground. What do you both share in common and agree upon? What are the positive qualities that you see in the other person? Other planks could include showing respect and empathy, hearing the other person’s feelings, and presenting body language and voice tone that convey a sincere interest in resolving differences. You could also speak in the other person’s language and compliment them in meaningful ways. For example, you could compliment them for their sensitivity and interest in hearing feelings, or for their dedication and desire to do things right. You can build a bridge for rapport by laying as many planks as possible to support a relationship in common with the other person.

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