Workplace Communications 2.0: Connecting Through Safe Rapport

As professionals, when we begin to learn the art of connecting with others, the advantages of trust and empathy are revealed. As illustrated through Johari’s Window in a recent DRIVEN article, sharing information with others about ourselves should unfold in the form of “safe rapport”. As we slowly expand the public quadrant of our own Johari windows, we can practically look on in wonder as respectful, rewarding relationships with our colleagues begin to take root.

The process of sharing something about yourself can be as organic as old-fashioned water cooler talk. Whether you’ve chosen to connect with someone on a level of common interest, or on something as specialized as a hobby, you have developed an adequate arsenal of small-talk topics to refer to when you encounter these folks in the kitchen or on the elevator. Communications like these are unmatched in their capacity to reinforce the positive social bonds responsible for seamless workplace operations, leading ultimately to better productivity and lowered stress.

Expanding your public quadrant and thereby revolutionizing your intraoffice communications can be simpler than you might realize. Here are some of the most universally effective techniques for achieving safe rapport in the workplace.

Your Smile Holds Emotional Currency

The smile is a social asset on many levels. Think of it: Aside from being disarming, it’s the first thing people notice about you. It’s also an emotional contagion, triggering others to smile back, similar to how a yawn can prompt someone else to yawn. In quite this way, a smile actually builds trust. For instance, when you smile by yourself, it sends a message to your amygdala and the rest of your nervous system to relax the fight/flight/freeze instinct. Finally, as a bonus, a smile releases endorphins, which are responsible for making us feel a sense of euphoria.

To supplement the smile, an authentic “Good morning” goes a long way, as does the respectful gesture of eye contact. Literally “seeing” others can humanize them more, and inspire them to reciprocate. I once had a client who would walk around, head down, deep in thought on his way to his desk in the morning. This would set the communicative tone for his day ahead, during which he would struggle to build rapport and trust with his coworkers. When I urged him to employ some silent communications through pleasant eye contact, he was astonished at how receptive everyone became in matters both social and work-related.

Don’t Underestimate The Human Touch

Another deceivingly simple but effective way to ease open the doors of personal connection in the workplace is through appropriate physical touch, which can convey a variety of different emotions. A subtle hand-to-upper arm contact when having a conversation with someone, for example, can communicate vastly more than words alone. In fact, according to a remarkable 2006 series of studies in emotional signaling, participants were able to communicate 12 distinct emotions to another person with merely a calculated touch on the forearm. Each receiver, despite not being able to see the toucher or the touch itself, was extraordinarily receptive to signals of anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude and sympathy with an accuracy ranging from 48% to 83%. To put this into context, such a rate of accuracy applies when the toucher can actually be seen!

For further insight, wait until you read these findings on signaling power and compliance through non-sexual touch.

The Other Double-Clicking

To make sure corporate teammates stay on the same page, organizational anthropologist Judith Glaser coined the term Double-ClickingTM. No, not the double-clicking associated with pressing a computer mouse twice to open a folder or document. Rather, it’s a metaphor to inspire folks to “click twice” on words used in conversation in order to “open up” the alternative meanings trapped inside the minds of others, especially clients. When we acknowledge that meaning is stored in the deeper recesses of the brain, it makes sense that double-clicking can give us a broader view of how others see the world. When we help ourselves to this clearer glimpse of their perspectives, deeply held beliefs and points of view, it reveals the client’s reality in a manner that stimulates mutual trust and empathy. It is from this foundation that the strongest of business relationships are generated. Try incorporating the double-click technique, as well as smiling and touch, into your daily routine. You may begin to notice a shift in your connection with others that can open up a world of opportunities to you!