Building rapport is one of the most powerful and influential things you can do when you meet a new client, or have a matter with one of your professional colleagues. As Milton Erickson, the greatest hypnotist said: “In the State of great rapport, anything can be achieved”.
I’d like to tell you my story. A story that is very personal to me and my family. The reason I want to share this story with you, is because I want to tell you how incredibly powerful creating rapport really is, and what changed for me and my family, because I did.
In 2012 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the last thing I expected to hear. I was 46 years of age, and had no history of breast cancer in my family, nor did I have a lump or any other reason for concern.
In the January of that year, I had a routine check-up with my local GP, and I decided to be proactive, and ask her for a referral for a routine mammogram. I’d had one four years before that, and all was fine. I had no reason for any particular concern.
It was the first week of May, and I was speaking to a business colleague over the phone. I had never met this man before, nor had I ever spoken to him before, but we both created instant rapport with one another. The purpose of my phone call was to ask a business question, but somehow we found ourselves talking on a personal note as well.
He happened to mention his Son to me, and I simply asked how old he was. He told me he was nine at the time. As a simple response to the small talk we were engaging in at the time, I said, …….“Oh you have a 9 year old………” he then told me he had older children who were in their mid-twenties. I immediately said, “Oh, so you married again”? He told me, he did, and continued to tell me his first wife, and mother of his older children had passed away twelve years earlier. He continued to tell me the story of his wife and his family. He told me, how she had breast cancer, had a mastectomy, and then died 9 years later with more cancer. Unfortunately she got cancer in her other breast which hadn’t been diagnosed until it had progressed a lot further and then became too late for any treatment to be effective.
I was so moved that this man whom I had never met or spoken to before, trusted me enough to tell me his deeply personal and heart wrenching story about his wife, whom he clearly adored. Our conversation evolved, because of the instant rapport we built with one another in as little as a couple of minutes over the phone.
A significant level of trust had been built, which was the reason this man whom I’d never met, felt comfortable enough to share with me, his very personal story. Toward the end of this conversation, I sincerely thanked him, and then told him I had a referral sitting on my desk for a routine mammogram, a referral I had ignored for the last few months.
I wanted this man to know how much I appreciated his confiding in me, so I promised him that as soon as I hung up the phone I would phone the Breast Clinic and make that appointment. Because I felt so honoured by his trust and honesty, I promised myself in that moment, that I would not continue to procrastinate. I picked up the phone, to make the appointment immediately.
For me, that was a big thing to do, because for the last four months I had found ‘a million other things’ to bemore important. I constantly told myself, “I’ll do that later, there’s no urgency.”
I remembered the last time I’d had a mammogram, it took about three months to get the appointment, so I expected to make the call, and have another three months before I’d have to go. However this time, the lady on the phone asked me if I’d like to come in on the Tuesday of that following week.
Because I didn’t expect this,I started making excuses straight away. I told her I had lunch with a friend that day, and asked her what other day she had. Instead of telling me another date which I expected to be in another couple of weeks, she offered me an appointment in that very same week, a couple of days later. I felt myself wanting to find another excuse, and wondering if there was something else I could say to genuinely excuse me from that day also. There was silence on the phone as she waited for my answer, so I reluctantly said yes, and the appointment was made.
The following week, I went to the appointment. After the mammogram, I was waited for the results. The doctor called me in, I sat down, and she said to me, “We think you have early stage breast cancer.” I was suddenly in a total ‘state of shock’. It was almost as if I was being told something weird and foreign. Then I thought it must have been a mistake. I remembered saying to her, “but I don’t have any lump”, something I ignorantly thought at the time, was a necessary symptom of breast cancer.
The doctor then asked me to come back the following week for a core biopsy. I had no idea what that was, and I remember looking at her like she told me that men from Mars were landing, and I was going to be taken away in a spaceship. It all sounded totally surreal. She thenadded to my disbelief words I’ll never forget: “Well if you are going to get cancer, this is the one to get……..you are very very lucky, because it’s early stage. As you can imagine, I wasn’t feeling lucky in this moment at all.
The following week arrived, the core biopsy was carried out, and the results were confirmed. I had DCIS. Ductal Cell in Situ, and what they referred to at that stage as ‘early stage breast cancer”. Soon after those results, I was referred to a cancer surgeon, and a week later I had surgery to remove a 60 mm section of breast tissue. I was totally fine with that, and thought it was a pretty good outcome.
The following day after my surgery, my specialist told me she was really happy with the operation, and it went really well. I was so relieved that this problem had been removed. Mydoctor looked happy, and her words continued to ring in my ears…….. “It went really well.” Now that was over, I was ready to move on with my busy life.
The following week, I returned to her practice, to have the surgical tape removed. I walked in as happy as ever, smiling and relieved to be getting the surgery tape off, knowing that this frightening ordeal was over. But something happened which I didn’t expect. My doctor proceeded to tell me about my surgery results, which I thought I was already told went really well. In my mind, I was simply there to have the tape removed.
What seemed to feel like a sudden jolt back into reality, she said: “We removed an 8 mm invasive cancer, but unfortunately we only got a 1 mm clear margin regarding the calcification spots, instead of a 10mm clear margin which is what we aim to achieve in the surgery.” I sat there just looking at her completely confused as to where she was going with all this. All of a sudden, I felt like someone dropped a bomb in my lap.
Her next words were, “The recommended treatment, is a mastectomy”. These words felt so dooming to me at the time. I was simply devastated in that moment.
I know for any woman reading this, you would easily imagine how I felt, and for some of you, I know you have experienced this very feeling yourself, and know exactly what I am describing. For you men out there, I know some of you also know how this feels if you have gone through a health situation yourself, or if your wife or loved one has been through a similar situation.
There is a reason I am telling you this story, and the reason is important. You see, when I first found out I was so incredibly shocked, because my expectations were not met! I walked into my doctor’s surgery after that first operation, expecting to get a piece of surgery tape removed after that initial operation. I then expected to go back home, to my busy life.
Anytime in life, we experience that feeling of suffering, it is because our expectations have not been met. I was suffering in that moment, because it was not what I had expected to hear. I believed I was going to be told; “Okay that’s great. Everything went well, now off you go to radiation for the next six weeks.
The main point of my telling you this story, is that none of this would have happened, if I hadn’t created rapport with someone who was at that stage, a stranger. I never would have gone to the Breast Clinic when I did, because I was so engrossed in my work and my family, and I rarely made myself a priority.
I can honestly say, that level of rapport and trust, created in those first few minutes on the phone, truly saved my life! This is not an exaggeration. Ever since that day, I have kept in touch with this man, whom I called “My Angel”, because that conversation did save my life.
I know how powerful building rapport and trust in your relationships and interactions with others truly is. If I had never created that level of rapport with this man, it would be unlikely that I would have had such a fortunate outcome.. I cannot stress to you how important creating rapport can be. In my case, it was completely life changing, it saved my life.
If you build rapport, you build trust. If you build trust then you’ll easily gain more credibility and likeability, and you’ll attract a higher quality of clients. This is the number one thing you want to do if you want more clients to say “yes” to retain you. The best thing about this, is your billings will naturally increase, as will your referrals.
One of the biggest things I have been told when I’ve spoken to law students and lawyers, is the fact that none of this has ever been taught in law school. So many people in this profession want to know the skills we teach you in our training program. Skills such as: how to create stronger rapport, how to assert yourself, the importance of listening to others, how to resolve conflicts, how to negotiate win/win outcomes, understanding clients through their profile types, and a great deal more.
Having the ability to build deeper rapport with your clients as well as your professional colleagues, will lead you to becoming more influential as a result. The truth is, you cannot have influence with others, if you do not have rapport with them. Most of us are either too passive or too aggressive in our business life, and we end up never getting the support, recognition, or respect we desire.