Lindsay Taylor explains why creating and maintaining rapport with yourself is the foundation to all success
What is rapport?
The Oxford Dictionary defines rapport as “a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well”.
Whilst I absolutely agree with this definition, I do think it is missing a crucial element. For, if we are to have the very best relationships with others, we need to have The Very Best Relationship with ourselves. A rapport, love and appreciation for “me, myself and I” are the foundations to all success.
We need to understand who we are as individuals and how we “tick”. We need to recognise and acknowledgement our own strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, beliefs, values, patterns, behaviours and makeup. In doing so, we will identify our “starting point” and ensure a true appreciation and understanding of ourselves from which we can develop a true appreciation and understanding of others.
How differently The Oxford Dictionary definition reads when we re-define rapport as being the relationship with “me, myself and I”:
“a close and harmonious relationship with ourselves in which we understand our own feelings and ideas and can communicate these well”.
So, how do we create and maintain rapport with ourselves?
We’re going to start by identifying our strengths and weaknesses and spending some “quality thinking time” conducting a personal SWOT analysis; then we will explore how to optimise communication with yourself.
Conducting a Personal SWOT analysis
Typically a SWOT analysis is conducted at business/industry level. Conducting a SWOT on a personal level will produce a highly informative “snapshot” and visual of yourself.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and the model is drawn up as follows:
Start with Strengths, then move to Weaknesses followed by Opportunities and finally Threats. It can be useful to assign different coloured pens to the respective headings – colours that symbolise the meanings to you personally.
Choose a time and space where you’re not going to be interrupted and consider this “quality thinking time” for yourself.
Remember this is not a “one-time” exercise. It is beneficial to conduct a personal SWOT regularly to gain a snapshot of you. The “me, myself and I” of today is likely to be very different to the “me, myself and I” of this time last year or the year before. We are constantly growing, developing, maturing and learning from experience, knowledge and the changing world around us.
Answer the questions as openly and honestly as you can and go with your “gut response” rather than overthinking your answers.
Never assume anything. Write down your responses even if they seem “obvious” to you. If your strength is organising diaries (but that little voice in your head is saying “but all PAs are great at organising diaries”) write it down!
If a question doesn’t sound right, look right or feel right to you, just pass over it.
Use the PAS model
P = Personality:
What personality traits do you consider to be your strengths? What tells you that? What evidence do you have to support this? What personality traits do others consider to be your strengths? What feedback/comments have you had from others?
A = Attributes:
What attributes and skills do you consider to be your strengths? What tells you that? What evidence do you have to support this? What attributes and skills do others consider to be your strengths? What feedback/comments have you had from others?
S = Successes:
What successes do you have? What achievements are you most proud of?
When answering, consider yourself as a “whole” – don’t just confine your responses to “work related” ideas. Your successes may be achievements outside of work and of course you will have put into practice specific skills sets, personalities and learning whilst achieving them. Any achievements or learning gained outside of work will be transferrable/transposable into the workplace.
What networks are you part of? What connections do you have with influential people?
Be proud of your strengths.
Many of my PA clients find it challenging to list their strengths but are quite able to list out their weaknesses. This is not about “bragging”, or “being big headed” or “showing off” when we identify our strengths. It is about taking ownership of what we are good at and being proud. If you really do struggle with this part of the exercise, imagine you could clone yourself. Talk about yourself in the third person and you will disassociate yourself from the emotion and any sense that you are “bragging” or “being big headed”.
Consider your weaknesses as areas that potentially you can develop – they are opportunities for you to better yourself.
What personality traits do you consider to be your weaknesses? What tells you that? What evidence do you have to support this? What personality traits do others consider to be your weaknesses? Do you have personality traits that hold you back?
What attributes and skills do you consider to be your weaknesses? What tells you that? What attributes and skills do others consider to be your weaknesses?
What tasks do you avoid because you don’t feel confident doing them?
How confident are you in regard to your education and training – are there any weaknesses here?
Do you have any “negative” habits?
What networking events, educational classes, training and conferences can you attend? How could you find out about these?
Can you cover for someone on leave or make yourself available to run a project or learn new skills?
Do your identified strengths open up any possibilities and opportunities?
By eliminating your weaknesses, does this open up opportunities and possibilities for you?
Is there any new technology that you can take advantage of?
Are there any trends in your company, sector or profession that you can take advantage of?
Is there a need in your company, industry or profession that no-one is filling?
What obstacles or barriers do you currently face that could be threatening your success?
Does changing technology threaten your position?
Is your job changing?
Could any of your weaknesses lead to threats?
By completing a personal SWOT you have given a structure to the internal dialogue you have had with yourself. If we can recognise and acknowledge the “little voices” and internal dialogue we are having we are in a better place to “control” those voices. Also, by understanding about our own preferred communication style and how we process information we can ensure we can tap into the very best way for us to learn. We will also know where our “starting point” is to communicating better with others.
It’s important to notice when the voices in your mind are talking and then take control of these voices (as if we have a giant personal remote control in hand). We can pause the voices, we can turn down the volume and, more importantly, we can “reprogramme” these voices. We can reprogramme the limiting beliefs to something much more useful – we can presuppose something to be true and hold “enabling beliefs” that will enable us and help us to achieve things and to ensure we have the very best rapport with ourselves.
Enabling beliefs are inspirational, powerful and motivational – they can help us “unlock” our thinking and be curious about a situation so we can get a different perspective. We can hold a belief to be true in certain situations to help us and others – to enable us to move forward and achieve our objectives, goals and outcomes.
We can experiment with our own thinking and this can give us flexibility in our feelings and behaviours. At times when we feel stuck or confused with various situations we are faced with we can hold an enabling belief.
Top 10 Enabling Beliefs
- If you believe you can or believe you cannot do something, either way you are likely to be right (thanks Henry Ford!)
- There is no failure, only feedback
- There is a solution to every problem
- Everyone already has everything they need to succeed
- We can never not communicate!
- If one person can do something then anyone can
- I am in charge of my mind and therefore my results
- If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got
- The map is not the territory
- Choice is better than no choice
Feedback to self
If you’re good at putting yourself down and that little voice regularly chastises you, recognise that you’re not alone. It can be easy to give ourselves “negative” feedback and concentrate on all the things that have gone wrong in certain situations. Recognise when this is happening. Provide a structure to the feedback you give yourself to ensure you are optimising the learning opportunity for any and every situation and not just concentrating on the “negative stuff”. My favourite “feedback to self” models are as follows:
The 3,2,1 Model
3 Things that went well
2 Things that didn’t go so well
1 Main point for improvement
The More of, Less of Model
What will I do more of?
What will I do less of?
The Stop, Start, Continue Model (aka Traffic Light Model)
What will I stop doing?
What will I start doing?
What will I continue doing?
How we process information and our preferred communication style
Understanding how we personally process information and our preferences for communication will give us an understanding of how we “tick”. We will know our starting point for communicating with others once we have more rapport with ourselves and this will, in turn, ensure a better rapport with others.
As an Executive PA you need to communicate with internal and external customers. Very quickly you need to get on someone else’s wavelength in order to communicate effectively with them and create good rapport. You need to think about the best way to communicate in any given situation (face to face, email, text message, telephone call) then think about the language you will use to communicate.
But did you know that, whilst we access all five senses to “make sense” of our worlds, in fact most of us have a dominant or primary sense that we use over the others? That dominant sense can mean we favour certain words, phrases and vocabulary and being able to identify your own and others dominant sense can be a useful thing to do to ensure you communicate as effectively as possible.
Take a few minutes to think back to the last meeting you were involved in and re-live the most memorable bits – collect the memories in your mind.
Then, think about how you remembered: Did you create a visual picture of the events? Was it a “snapshot”, a still image? Was it a “mini movie”? Was it in colour?
Or did you notice the sounds within the experience – people’s voices, music or the natural sounds of the surroundings?
Or maybe the memory was about feelings inside – happiness (the meeting went really well!) or tension (the Sales Director and Managing Director could not agree on anything!).
Whichever one of these ways of reconstructing your memory was the first and / or most recognisable indicates your likely dominant sense – or your lead representational system. Quite simply, it is how you create a “representation” or “re-present” your world – either in
- pictures (the Visuals – or The V)
- sounds (the Auditory – or The A)
- or feelings (the Kinaesthetic – or The K)
This is our VAK System – one that you as a PA can tap into to ensure rapport with yourself and rapport with others.
An indicator of your representation or VAK System is the language that you use – particular words and phrases that we call “Predicates”.
If you have a predominantly visual representational system then you’re likely to use words and phrases like:
- “I see what you mean.”
- “I get the picture”
- “Things are looking great.”
- “We need to focus on this aspect.”
and, because you can see in your “mind’s eye” what you’re talking about you’re likely to use your arms and body to draw out in front of you the very thing you’re describing! You will notice how things look around you – their shape, form and colour – the aesthetics.
If you have a predominantly auditory representational system then you’re likely to talk in predicates that are sound or music related, as examples then
- “We discussed the situation”
- “I’d like to listen to your ideas”
- “I do like the sound of that”.
You might be great at tuning into new ideas.
If you have a predominantly Kinaesthetic Representational System then you’re likely to use language that is feelings, movement or touch related:
- “I’m under pressure”
- “I like the feeling of that”
- “Things are really moving now”
- “He’s hot on quality control”
You probably have a pretty clear idea of where you experience your feelings too. If you’re stressed you may touch your head, if you’re hungry you may touch your stomach and for you to really optimise any learning, you probably want to be there, doing it as a first-hand experience.
What is the use of my newfound knowledge?
Before I answer your question, let me ask you a couple of questions.
How often have you met someone for the first time and felt that you got along really well and immediately seemed to be on the “same wavelength”? And…How often have you met someone for the first time and found it really difficult to keep the conversation going?
The reason for this could be because you are either talking the same or a different “VAK Language”.
If a primarily visual person is using all their visual type predicates, an auditory person is likely to “switch off”.
However two “visual” people are much more likely to create quicker and deeper rapport and be “comfortable” with each other because they are, in effect, talking the same language.
So, next time you are listening to colleagues or friends in conversation, notice what words they tend to use and favour. Read through your emails in your inbox and notice any patterns of predicates favoured by those you work with. What representational system do you think they are? If you’ve discovered you are a primarily visual representation system and your manager is auditory – in order to create better rapport and communicate more effectively with him / her you can adjust your language and include more auditory predicates.
A beautiful quote that fits with this knowledge was shared by Nelson Mandela who said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”.