So you’ve just started university and are already looking for ways to maximize the amount of value you can extract from this new experience.
Or you’re heading into your final year.
Whatever the situ, make no mistake – there are many opportunities ahead of you that are yours for the taking.
University is a platform that offers tons of possibilities and it would be useful if you were to extract a lot of value from it.
A month before starting my university experience, I read Click: The Power of Instant Connections by Ori and Rom Brafman.
This was an insightful book that made me more cognisant of the social powers that be and learnt how to build rapport with almost anyone, and what were the ingredients to a meaningful conversation.
People think that clicking with someone is rare.
After reading this book and putting the ideas into practice, I quickly found out that these unique connections don’t have to be rare at all.
It’s important that you know of these things heading into uni, especially if you’re just starting out.
Especially if you’re just starting college because everybody else is new and is just about as equally open to new connections as you are.
Make use of this opportunity to stand out in a social free for all that are these first few weeks at university; before people start to gel together and form their own little cliques.
The book can be distilled into 5 accelerators of rapport building
There are 5 accelerators of rapport building: Vulnerability, Proximity, Resonance, Similarity, and Safety.
I’ll go into only 3 of those.
Power of Proximity
There’s no doubt that you’ll form friendships with people you live close to (e.g. in a dorm), or sit next to in class.
The physically closer people are, the emotionally closer you are.
This just boils down to the fact that you’re more likely to exchange passive communication cues (e.g. nod, smile, wave) and have unplanned conversations with one another when you run into each other.
It really is as simple as that.
Science backs this insight, too.
Leon Festinger found that students in MIT dorms who lived at the end of the corridors were more likely to be social outsiders with fewer connections than students who lived right in the middle of the complex.
Students who lived in the middle of the dormitory or near the stairwells were more likely to be the most popular people simply because they were more likely to bump into people and engage in spontaneous communication.
Dorm rooms were randomly allocated and – interestingly – personality tests showed that all students weren’t much different to one another.
If you find yourself living in the middle of a dormitory, near a common kitchen, or near a stairwell – you’re in luck.
But if you don’t, you’ll have to put in conscious effort to make sure you’re not missing out too much on the social opportunities that the ‘middlemen’ are enjoying.
Such is life – some have it easier and some have to work harder just to level the playing field.
Power of Vulnerability
Being able to open up to someone is special.
Obviously, you have to be calibrated when you do it.
Don’t go telling your deepest, darkest secrets to people you’ve just met.
According to Ori and Rom Brafman, there are 5 types of conversations you can have, all of which vary in degrees of vulnerability:
Phatic communication includes “how are you?” and social niceties and a general diplomatic approach.
In terms of a vulnerability scale, this is barely scratching the surface.
But it’s an essential part of every conversation – it opens up new avenues for your chat and preps you for whatever lies ahead.
This is where you share personal facts about one another.
“Where are you from?” and that sort of thing.
Evaluation communications pertains to expressing your views about something in order to find out who shares the same values as you do and who doesn’t.
It’s a natural selection of sorts to find who you’ll gel with from the get go.
For example, if you say “I’ve never enjoyed the opera” to someone who equally dislike the opera, both of you will be more drawn to each other because you share this in common.
Depending on the view you express, the relationship with the person you are speaking with will be positively or negatively affected.
This is where inner fears and weakness are revealed and where rapport, trust, and loyalty are built as a consequence.
This type of conversation allows you to connect with someone on a deeper, more meaningful level.
This is where deepest desires and wishes, and innermost thoughts and feelings are revealed.
In the book, the Brafman brothers analyse Bill Clinton’s success in his 1992 presidential campaign.
He was trailing badly behind other candidates (one of which was George Bush).
Bill Clinton was an afterthought.
But then he started going to talk shows, opening up about his personal life.
That he was raised by a single parent. That he had an alcohol father and a drug addict brother.
He showed he was vulnerable. He showed that he was above all else – only human.
And this is how he connected with audiences.
By the end of his talk show campaign his rating went from 33% to 77% in a single month.
What Never Eat Alone author Keith Ferrazzi says about vulnerability is spot on:
The first thing small-talk experts tend to do is place rules around what can and can’t be said. They claim that when you first meet a person, you should avoid unpleasant, overly personal, and highly controversial issues.
Wrong! Don’t listen to these people! Nothing has contributed more to the development of boring chitchatters everywhere. The notion that everyone can be everything to everybody at all times is completely off the mark.
When it comes to making an impression, differentiation is the name of the game. Confound expectation. Shake it up. How? There’s one guaranteed way to stand out in the professional world: Be yourself. I believe that vulnerability—yes, vulnerability—is one of the most underappreciated assets in business today.
It’s a call to be honest, open, and vulnerable enough to genuinely allow other people into your life so that they can be vulnerable in return.
The message here is that we can go through life, particularly conferences and other professional gatherings, making shallow, run-of-the-mill conversation with strangers that remain strangers. Or we can put a little of ourselves, our real selves, on the line, give people a glimpse of our humanity, and create the opportunity for a deeper connection. We have a choice.
Power of resonance
What is resonance? It sounds like a wishy-washy psychology concept.
But how else would you describe those social experiences with people who you just talk to and the conversation is so smooth and effortless.
There’s this intangible quality that you can’t quite put your finger on, almost like a magnetic energy about the person that makes you gravitate towards him or her.
The natural connectors.
Imagine a conversation with one of these connectors.
You two are talking and you’re suddenly in a bubble – time, other people around you, missed calls and texts don’t matter.
In other words, you’re in flow – the deepest, most powerful level of connection during which a sense of euphoria is experienced.
This is resonance – enjoying a magnetic quality with another person and being emotionally or energetically connected with them.
In Click: The Power of Instant Connections, Ori and Rom Brafman suggest that in order to create that resonance, you have to be present.
Natural connectors through being present are able to create presence.
There are four components to being present:
~ Giving someone your undivided attention (i.e. intentionality),
~ Being genuine and authentic (i.e. individuality),
~ Being able to acknowledge how they see things in a non-judgemental way (i.e. mutuality) and,
~ Really wanting to understand where someone is coming from through active listening (i.e. attentiveness).
Maybe it sounds a bit reductionist to try and simplify an ethereal concept such as resonance to a few categories to make it seem more formulaic.
But I can understand how these aspects might be some important building blocks into capturing that resonance with somebody.
Be a social chameleon (while still being true to yourself)
People who can easily adapt to a particular environment or make adjustments to their behavioural repetoire to better suit a particular personality are more likely to be able to create this resonance with someone while still be true to themselves.
The Brafman brothers call these socially malleable people high self-monitors.
These social chameleons of sorts usually have a high degree of emotional intelligence and naturally mirror and match the other person’s body language, energy, and tone of voice.
This is one of the ways high self-monitors build rapport with someone on a more subconscious level.
This book opened my eyes.
Some of it is basic, I know.
Some of it perhaps a little profound.
But I think this book makes you more attuned to the social nuances that govern networking and relationship-building.
And this gives you an edge in building strong, lasting relationships with almost anyone.
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