Last month I sat down with John (not his real name) to get to know him and see if I could work with him as my coaching client. John is a brilliant young developer who can code complex applications very quickly. His boss had asked him if he would like me to help him overcome some challenges in dealing with his team.
At our meeting, John started telling me about his job and his challenges. “What is your favourite game?”, I asked him when he brought up the subject. John lit up. “I love World of Warcraft.” “Oh really? World of Warcraft!” I said. I went ahead and shared the little I knew about the game and he continued talking about it. He later told me he was writing his own game and I asked him about it. I noticed he liked the details of it so I asked more about those details to understand what he did. We chatted for about 45 minutes.
At the beginning of the meeting, John, an introverted computer geek, told me that his biggest challenge was that he failed to speak to people he hardly knew. However, during our meeting, John spoke most of the time and even apologised for “speaking too much.” At the end of our meeting, I asked him if he wanted us to work together and said “Yes, definitely. You’re very easy to talk to.”
My interaction with John, confirmed that everybody likes talking about things that they love. When the subject goes to those things they speak with enthusiasm. Taking a genuine interest in what someone loves is an easy way of building rapport and connecting with them. “People buy people” as Todd Duncan explains in his book High Trust Selling. People buy from people they like. So because people like to talk about what they love, they like people who listen to them talk about that. This skill can be learnt.
Because it was a meeting for him to assess if he wanted to work with me, one would think I needed to show my knowledge and “prove” myself. However, by listening to him, I built rapport and gained trust which is the opposite of what talking about myself and what I know (benefits and features) would have done.