Here is a strategy that will help you deepen trust and rapport with your business conversation partners: acknowledge positive intent.
Positive intent is the good purpose meant to be served by any communication or behavior. Always look for positive intent within others; give people the benefit of the doubt in situations that are difficult or have not turned out well, and especially when your conversation partners have caused a problem.
Take the following three steps:
- Look for things to thank people for.
- Verbally express appreciation for things that people have done well.
- Acknowledge any information that people may have lacked, and promise to keep them better informed in the future, even if it’s not your job to do so.
Then say: “Thank you for (xyz)”. This is the point when you will mention the person’s positive intent. For example, if a person has been excessive in some way or overly-detailed, or has made errors, you might first say something like, “Thank you for your attention to detail.”
In some situations, unfortunately, it may be challenging to identify someone’s positive intent! If you truly cannot identify positive intent, make something up that is plausible. When you mention a positive intent that is plausible, it’s very unlikely that your conversation partners will deny that this was their intent. Most people want to be seen in the best light and appreciate the opportunity to save face.
In the moment when you’re identifying positive intent, blend. Blending is any communication or behavior that minimizes the differences between you and another person. This means that you will mirror (and not mimic) your conversation partner’s tone, tempo, volume, energy level, and body language. Give receptive signals, such as “oh, yes, I see, I understand, etc., and use lots of head nodding.
Verbally acknowledging positive intent will help you build trust and rapport and increase your success in business conversations.