Here is the answer to the ultimate question

If you want to be able to influence people, you have to start by being prepared to listen, and follow through by offering...

If you want to be able to influence people, you have to start by being prepared to listen, and follow through by offering something of yourself, says David Taylor.

What a claim, "Here's how to build total and absolute rapport with any other human being."

It may be your boss, your teenage son or daughter, or someone you are meeting for the first time. Having researched this area, often called "influence", for four years, and waded through mountains of hype, definitive how-to books and tapes, here it is - and it's dynamite.

I feel obliged to append a health warning: this is so powerful and foolproof that you must not use it to manipulate other human beings against their will.

This is the ultimate influencing technique. There are three stages, they will appear very mechanical, so please interpret them according to your situation. If you are using this with someone you do not know well, follow it to the letter. If, on the other hand, you are using it with your spouse of 26 years, adapt it to the relationship you have.

Stage one: the other person is talking. Pay absolute attention to the other person - that means listening, not just hearing. This, by itself, is the biggest compliment you can pay another human being - valuing what they have to say.

Listen to their words and, more importantly, be aware of their body language and movement. And all the time you are seeking the answer to just one question.

But before we come to that, what will the other person talk about? They will talk about their favourite subject in the whole world, namely, themselves. To be more exact, they will talk about whatever subject you are discussing, from their own point of view - in the reality in which they see that event or issue. They have to do this, they have no choice, and they are not able to speak about any subject as if they were someone else - it would be impossible.

So, they are talking, you are paying 100% attention, nodding and showing positive, open body language, still thinking all the time about that one question.
But before we come to that

Stage two: the other person is not talking, or stops. Now, what to do? Well, as human beings we only have a choice of three things we can say - we can make a statement (most often what happens during a pause); we can give a command; or we can play the most powerful card we have, and ask a question.

Questions are amazing, they progress the conversation in a non-threatening way, they allow the other person to continue talking about their favourite subject, and they move the discussion forward.

You will probably have read about making sure you ask open questions (any question that cannot be answered "yes" or "no" or with any other one-word answer). There is a lot of human potential and influence jargon around "precision" questions. Forget all of that: your aim here is not to worry about what label your question has but to get that person talking, so that you can move forward to enabling you to discover that one huge, all important, finding.

But before we come to that - you will have gained a deep understanding and rapport already, because people love to talk about themselves and the world as they see it. Absolutely love it, and here you are, showing an interest - becoming their new best friend.

And at every stage, with all of your energy, brainpower and powers of deduction, you are seeking the answer to the ultimate question of rapport.

And here it is.

What is this person's most important need, right now? I say "need" deliberately - it is really a "want," but it is a huge, yearning need to this person.

Ideally, you will also assess one or two other "needs" at the same time. And then, you reach over the table, (metaphorically) pick the person up and place them in your pocket, by doing stage three.

Stage three: you offer to help them to achieve their greatest need.

Simple. Rapport built, they are nestled nicely in your pocket.

Three additional points here:
  • Do not compromise your values - in other words, if helping the other person means doing something that you do not consider "right" do not offer. This is one reason it is useful to find out a secondary "need" as well.

  • Follow through. Actually do it. I know of one manager who came on a one-day professional power programme and then went off building rapport with anyone and everyone he could find. Then he did not carry it through.

  • People often ask me, "How does this work when both people know this technique? Answer: you have the most constructive, rapport-building and warming exchange of your life.

However, most people, even those who know this awesome technique, do not do it, because they don't want to sit listening to other people, they want to talk about themselves. That is why this takes discipline, and it works.

From an extract from David Taylor's new book, The Naked Leader, published by Capstone, which is due to be published next month

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