The ability to build rapport, to make others feel comfortable, valued, and welcome is one of the most vital skills we can possess.
Make no mistake about it, the ability to connect emotionally is as much a skill (skill: the ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well) as any other human competency. Yes, some people have more natural aptitude than others, but practice and study can improve anyone’s level of ability. In the workplace, this is known as “emotional labor,” the ability to manage your emotions so as to best perform your job. Yep, scholars have written research papers on it!
My first property manager had a remarkable ability to turn on. When Customers or Residents walked through the door, he was instantly “on.” His entire demeanor brightened, his face lit up, and a smile blazed across his face. He stood up and reached out to shake their hands. Sometimes he would offer water or come out from behind the counter to make sure they were comfortable.
In short, he welcomed them, made them feel important, made sure they knew he was happy to see them. And he was. The smile was genuine: it reached all the way to his eyes and it lingered on his face, not disappearing the instant others turned away.
I once asked him how he did it. “Well, it helps that I like people. I really do. I believe in my product and I believe I can satisfy their needs. Beyond that, I have a wife and kids and these are the people who are feeding them, putting a roof over their heads. I never forget that. Also, I really, really like it when people go all out for me. I can sense when they care about me and, you know, I want to give that back when people come to me.”
My property manager was a good teacher who did an excellent job of passing his “human skills” on to those who worked with him. At first for some it felt awkward or even fake, as with any new skill set. To force yourself to smile? To act cheerful even if you are feeling flat?
The reply was simple: athletes stepping onto the field give their best no matter how they feel. Indeed, they work hard to get “up” for their endeavors. The actor stepping onto the stage owes her audience her best no matter what mood she is in prior to the opening curtain.
To that excellent advice I add a bit more: Emotion often follows action. Slap a smile on your face, lift your head high, throw back your shoulders, and you will be surprised how often your mood follows suit. You will be personally happier for the effort and you will perform better at work. And, heck, your co-workers, family, and friends will probably appreciate having a happier, more cheerful you.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” — Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese monk, activist, and writer; b. 1926.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” — Leo F. Buscaglia, American guru, advocate of the power of love; 1924-1998.
“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” — Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Nobel Peace Prize recipient; 1910-1997.