Regardless of your estate planning talent and skill… without rapport, people in general don’t feel like they “know” you. Trust is nearly impossible without rapport. Even if building rapport is not your strength, there are a few specific efforts you can fine tune and practice on everyone from the dry cleaning lady to the guy next to you in line at the airport.
- Eye Contact: It’s old news, but guess what, you just can’t trust someone with shifty eyes. Pay attention to your own eye contact and start noticing how “shifty” others tend to be. Hold your chin up a little, square your face off with someone else and just be comfortable waiting for them to speak. If they’re speaking, how engaged are you with your eyes as you listen?
- Listening skills: Asking questions that get others to talk about themselves a little, being interested in what someone does or in an experience they had is important. People like you when you let them talk about themselves. Be interested and listen actively. Nod, comment and repeat important portions of what they’ve said. Don’t edit your laughter if something they said is funny and don’t rush them. Be a patient and generous listener.
- Go back: If you’re in a meeting and you sense that the prospective client has shifted “out of rapport” with you… maybe he/she isn’t listening or really participating any more, maybe they’re fidgeting or appear doubtful or on guard in some way. Stop the conversation, say something about what you’re sensing has just happened and go BACK to building the rapport before you continue.
Rapport killing practices include things like:
- Not looking at the person as you’re filling out a client intake form, being impersonal about the entire process.
- Being disrespectful of someone’s time, wasting time with aimless banter. It’s easy to allow rapport building conversation to turn to chatter.
- Being rushed can make someone feel like you don’t care.
- Not listening actively has people feel that their concerns aren’t understood or taken seriously.
- Allowing interruptions communicates that you think other things are more important than they are.
- Being late speaks to your ability to do what you say and communicates that you can’t do the easiest part of a meeting right.
- Lacking warmth, being unapproachable, abrupt or rude when people are in your office revealing the most intimate family fears—certainly won’t win you a Miss (or Mr.) Congeniality prize!
Estate planning attorneys are in the family business. Treat people like family and they will love you… the added benefit is that it makes life more meaningful for you, too!
Director, Member Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys