The brain is a social animal.
Social connections are a primary need for our brains. That’s to say: at times as important as food, water and shelter. And although this might at first sound surprising, it’s understandable.
From the day we’re born and throughout the early stages of our lives, we’re heavily dependent on others for the things that we need and want. And so, we become strongly attuned to other people.
In the modern and adult world of work, the ability to make good connections remains a key determinant of success, not only opening doors for us, but enhancing our personal performance, reducing our stress and increasing our happiness.
A key ingredient for strong connections
One of the key ingredients for good connection is rapport: a sense of trust, harmony and cooperation between two people.
Rapport is something that happens (or not!) quite naturally. Think for a moment about your own positive relationships, both in and outside of work. There’s a certain sync to you and the other person. A dovetailing of conversation, idea and movement. It’s a dance. And one we’ve learnt unconsciously by modelling the behaviours of those around us.
In work particularly, there are times when we want to speed-up the connection; or when we need to work harder to establish a connection where there is otherwise resistance. Here are 3 brain-based approaches to doing just that.
A brain-based approach to accelerate rapport
To put others at ease, we can trigger small rewards in the social domains that the brain treats as primary needs.
1. Offer STATUS.
Status is our sense of standing within a group. Status is hugely important to the brain and something our unconscious is acutely aware of, at all times. Status is also a zero-sum game: elevating your sense of status will decrease my sense of status.
Enhance someone’s Status by requesting permission, requesting input, giving positive feedback or sincerely acknowledging them.
2. Offer CERTAINTY.
Our brain is a prediction machine, continually mapping past experiences to present circumstances. When things become uncertain and we can’t make those predictions, our limbic system responds with a threat signal. And the resulting “away” emotions decrease rapport.
Offer Certainty by “placing” conversations (outlining topics and outcomes at the outset), setting clear expectations and always delivering on your promises.
3. Offer AUTONOMY.
Autonomy is not so much about having full control over events, as it is about having the experience of choice. In stressful or otherwise demanding scenarios, brain research shows that if we feel like we have a choice, we experience hardly any stress. And so our “thinking” brain remains online and we continue to experience “towards” emotions like motivation and inspiration.
Increase Autonomy by offering choices, offering an “escape”, encouraging initiative and promoting a sense of control over outcomes – even if only a perceived sense of control (for example: “of these tasks, you can choose which you do first”).
Enhancing social connections via the brain
There are many ways to build rapport: body language, dress code, trust, respect, shared values, empathy. What’s less-talked about is the brain-based approach.
As with all these techniques, what’s key is that any attempt to increase rapport come from a place of authenticity and in the interests of mutual benefit. If that’s the case, then a brain-based approach is a great way to enhance your sense of rapport with those around you.