Thursday, August 14, 2008

Building Rapport to Forge Meaningful Relationships

As part of one of my MBA classes, I was given an assignment to choose one strength that is a key asset in my professional work and discuss the circumstances under which I really came to discover the strength. Below is what I came up with for the assignment. Let me know what you think. --oh, and I've got to say, as harshly as I depicted some of the attributes of some of a couple folks who may read this, I love you like brothers, even today; and I mean no offense. ;)


Building Rapport to Forge Meaningful Relationships

I have chosen a career path in sales. To be effective in this line of work, building rapport to forge relationships is a key strength that I have had to develop; yet, building rapport is an ability I have had from a young age. I remember being able to connect with individuals I associated with at a level I don’t think everyone typically achieves from as early on as grade school.

Throughout high school, my ability of quickly building rapport was evidenced by my consistently having meaningful relationships with girlfriends and friends throughout my various involvements. Matt Hong, my closest friend on the high school debate team called it my “Corky Thatcher” effect, referencing the irresistibly loveable Down syndrome character from the hit TV series Life Goes On. He said I had a knack for winning over the debate judges just by being me.

I came to understand my ability to build rapport and consequently establish a truly meaningful relationship with almost anyone most distinctly on my LDS mission. Since missionaries are assigned a ‘companion’ with whom we are to be in constant contact every day, most missionaries have quite an adjustment to make.

My first companion, Elder Hendricks, was one of the hardest missionaries someone might be assigned to ‘adjust to’. He was just plain quirky. He walked differently than most people. His voice was loud and often obnoxious. He was a bit “socially backwards”, not quite knowing the appropriate thing to say or do in virtually every social situation in which he found himself. Although he wore deodorant and brushed his teeth, he emitted certain bodily odors, and he even seemed to breathe oddly with a bit of a snort as he inhaled. His acute acne problem didn’t help his plight much, yet there he was—on a mission to preach the gospel and to do so as my companion.

Even though I grew up in Idaho, (associating with plenty of ‘less refined’ folk ;) I found it difficult to get past all of my companion’s personality traits and truly enjoy his companionship. But a note from another missionary in our district helped me realize I was doing something most don’t. “Elder Hone,” the note said, “I just wanted to let you know I sincerely admire the way you treat your companion. He drives me crazy, and I only have to see him in a class every now and then. I think I would very literally kill myself if I had to be his companion.” The letter seemed overly harsh to me, but I learned that most others who had any associations with my companion also had very similar feelings. They were baffled at how I got along with him at all.

But I did get along with him. To me his quirks were just quirks. I didn’t like them, but I still appreciated Elder Hendricks for his strong desires to serve, and his sincere hope to accomplish something good on his mission. As my 8 week assignment with Elder Hendricks progressed, I came to realize that I really cared about my companion as a person. I wanted to know him better, and the better I got to know him, the more I cared about him. Although we didn’t part ways as the very best of friends, I felt I had a strong rapport with my first companion, and it lent itself to a relationship that I believe was deeper than he ever established with most others. In fact, of the 12 missionary companions I had, Hendricks was the only one who made the effort to attend my wedding reception.

Later on my mission, a similar scenario played out on the other end of the spectrum when I got the privilege of working directly with a British missionary who had earned a reputation of being a snooty, stuffy, prideful, hard-headed man. He exuded a sense of arrogance about himself—always correcting others’ grammar and pointing out other of their faults and weaknesses. By the end of our work together, though, this Brit had become one of my truest friends, and I believe the feeling was reciprocated.

And it’s not just the ‘hard ones’ I connect with. The truth is, I am simply interested in the individuals with whom I associate. I have a conviction that if I truly knew the heart of any man or woman, I could easily find something to sincerely admire in him or her. So, that’s what I try to do; I try to know people. As I do, I build rapport and forge relationships. It has been the key to my success in sales, and largely the key to my own happiness in life.

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