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Developing Emotionally Intelligent Relationships

The hallmarks of emotionally intelligent relationships are rapport and communication.

In other words, the people who relate with you feel good about relating with you, and when you speak what you say matters, it has influence. That’s the hallmark of an effective leader.

When these two things are true, you get to get more done with better results, more win/win collaboration, and less effort. And you get to feel good about it. This means clients instead of customers; this means being heard instead of being shopped around, this means knowing that you matter in the interaction.

Here’s what’s true for most people:

Relationships and communication are hit and miss. Some people you probably get along well with, they just get you, others maybe you just tolerate, or they seem to just tolerate you. Some people listen to you; some people don’t unless they have to. What does this result in? More work, more effort, fewer results, less win-win and more of a chore like an experience. What does that lead to – customers, not clients. Getting shopped around instead of being a trusted advisor. This means having a difference to make, and not being able to make it.

In a nutshell, are you the kind of leader that other people want to follow (clients, co-workers, direct reports, children, etc.), not because they have to but because they want to. Would you like to be the kind of leader others want to follow? If so read on to learn how to:

  • Build rapport with anyone
  • Communicate with Influence
  • Maximize your personal power and influence.


People work with and do business with people they like right – why? Because people feel safe with people they like. That sense of safety, that likeability – that’s what rapport is.

  • When you have rapport, the conversation feels easy because there is a sense of safety and trust.
  • Safety goes hand in hand with trust and in relationships, and in business relationships trust trumps price/skills every time. In fact, from a business point of view, the amount of money people spend with you is commensurate with how much they trust you to solve their problems.
  • When you have trust and rapport – people will follow you when you lead (at least that’s 50% of the equation). Without trust and rapport, nobody is following you anywhere, not if they don’t have to.

Pacing to Develop Rapport

How do you build Rapport?

Let me introduce you to the skill of Pacing. Pacing from the person doing it’s point of view is entering into the others person’s world to be there with them, understand them. From the receivers point of view it’s seeing that “hey this person get’s me, we may be different, but we are on the same page”. Pacing is the skill of aligning to the other person and creating rapport.


Why Pacing?

In the back of everyone’s mind is the question “can you help me get what I want?”

Pacing demonstrates, that even though we are different, we are alike (we like each other), that you get me and understand me, and therefore I can trust you to help me get what I want. I am open to listening to you. In other words, what you say matters.

If you don’t pace, you can’t lead. Why not? Think about it:

  • Would you be interested in trusting someone and being led by someone who demonstrated through their inability to pace you that they didn’t get you, they didn’t understand you or what’s really important to you?
  • How would you feel about communicating with someone who was just waiting for you to finish so that they could say what was more interesting and relevant to them? (an example of ‘anti-pacing).

So how do you pace?


Looking “At” Versus Looking “As”

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes constantly. We call this “Looking AS” the person, rather than looking at the person.

Knowing and understanding your own position and hanging out there is what most people are doing already. The problem is what chance do I have of influencing you if I don’t even know what influences you because I have never stopped to think or ask – what do you care about here? What chance do I have of winning the business from a client if I don’t even really understand what they value?

If all you are doing is looking at people from your own position and not stepping into their shoes – you are simply talking at them. Do you enjoy being talked at? Do you listen? Is it influential? Stepping into the other person’s shoes enables you to talk with people, not talk at them

Looking AS them is where the opportunity is. Looking as them is putting yourself in their shoes and being them for a moment, and seeking to understand – what is this person thinking? How are they feeling? What’s important to them? What’s their outcome, what do they want? How can I tailor my message to this person in a way that is going to be meaningful for them?

How often do you experience other people relating and communicating with you like this? Pretty rare right?


Listening Skills

It’s one thing to think and ask about what matters to another person, but it’s no good if you don’t actually listen is it? Hearing someone isn’t listening. Listening is seeking to understand – not just your position, but theirs. There are also qualities of listening. You can for instance:

  1. Download Listen – this is the level of listening being employed when you really aren’t paying attention at all. Perhaps you are talking to yourself in your own head whilst the other person talks, day dreaming, or simply paying attention to something else whilst you are being communicated with. This level of listening essentially breaks rapport.
  2. Factual Listening – this is the level of listening being employed when only paying attention to the facts of the conversation that pertain or are interesting to you personally. In other words, you are listening for you, not the other person. This is a slight upgrade of download listening but still has a negative impact on rapport.
  3. Empathetic Listening – this is the level of listening being employed when you care about the other person in the exchange, during the exchange. Which means you are putting yourself in their shoes, listening for what they think, and how they feel about the communication, and genuinely seeking to understand. This is the level of listening that correlates to “Looking AS” the other person. This level of listening is a rare experience for most people and builds rapport by allowing the other to be deeply heard, and demonstrating you care enough to do so.
  4. Sacred Listening – this is the highest form of listening, usually employed by a good coach, or an especially important (sacred even) interaction. Here you are 100% with another, and only them. This level of listening is the one of the fastest and deepest ways to build rapport and influence with others.

Matching and Mirroring

As you work on pacing and building rapport, you will find that you may not be able to connect easily with everyone.  If someone is aggressive or has a style that does not resonate with you, you may have to pace in a different way.  A subset of pacing is matching and mirroring, which is the subtle practice of taking on someone else’s mannerisms and body language to foster communication.

For example, perhaps you are speaking with someone who is becoming aggressive.  His speech is getting faster and louder.  You can begin by deliberately adjusting your speech to become faster and louder in an attempt to gain rapport.  Once you have rapport, you can then lead the person to a calmer state by speaking slower and softer.


This takes us to self-leadership, which is a bit of a paradox.  With self-leadership, the most influence you have with other people is when you are focused on what you can control, which is yourself.  There are four powers which you can control: your thinking, your feelings, what you say, and what you do.

In order to have an emotionally intelligent relationship, you need to take ownership of these four powers.  You need to focus on what you can control within yourself. Personal power is understanding that the only person you can take responsibility for is yourself.

With self-leadership, you lead the kind of experience you want to receive. The beauty of self-leadership is that the more you focus on controlling your powers, the more influence you will have.  Taking responsibility for yourself gives you maximum personal empowerment and influence with others.

>Next Steps

The coaching room offers a variety of programs grounded in emotional intelligence and NLP.

Developing emotionally intelligent relationships is part of our corporate Unleashing Leadership program.  We bring together diverse groups of people from within an organization and help them align as a team.  When companies function under a silo mentality, they become non-collaborative which makes it harder for them to accomplish their goals.  Our Unleashing Leadership program teaches emotional intelligence to help corporate teams become unified and focused.

On a more personal level, we offer EQ days to help individuals develop their emotional intelligence. EQ days offer a great way to begin your journey to emotionally intelligent relationships.

For more tips on improving your relationships, read our articles 15 Tips to Better Professional Relationships and 15 Tips Toward Better Personal Relationships.


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