The Conversation Misconception: Why Only Building Rapport Hurts Your Chances of Success

Filed in Tips and Tricks by on May 25, 2010 0 Comments

If you scroll through any social media or marketing how-to website, you’ll most likely find an article about why conversation is important in building relationships.  In fact, we have quite a few of those articles on this website.  It’s true – conversation generates connections and connections lead to great opportunities.  However, conversation only opens a small amount of doors.  And, it can also hurt your push for greatness.

If conversation and connection isn’t the key, what is?


Without action, our conversations, connections, and attempts at networking are useless.  Yes, conversation is needed to establish rapport but it can’t be the only thing you use to establish your relationships with others.  You don’t have a relationship with the security officer in your building who you happen to greet each morning.  You’ve done nothing to establish a rapport; you’ve only allowed pleasantries to roll off your tongue.  Kindness and smooth talking can only get you so far.  Actions help to build relationships and increase your chances of success.

So, now that you know relationships aren’t built on conversation alone, what can you do to develop the connections you’ve made?


It’s a simple step that individuals often avoid – showing gratitude.  Why?  It makes us feel uncomfortable.  Gratitude requires giving up your selfish interests and doing something for others.  Although it can weird us out, showing gratitude toward others is an instant relationship builder.  Receiving a selfless act of kindness is one of the best feelings and can often compel people to return the favor.

Here’s an example:

Throughout the week, we talk to many people through the Folk Media account.  Whether it’s via @replies or direct messages, we engage in conversation.  It spreads the word about Folk Media but it also allows for us to plant the seeds of relationships in others.  However, we know this isn’t the key to relationships.

Every Friday, we go through the past week of Twitter conversations and we #FollowFriday everyone that has talked with us.  We don’t just list everyone in a single tweet and call it a day.  We take the time to highlight the good aspects of each person – great conversationalist, good website, knowledgeable about social media, etc.  Giving Twitter props is a great way to show gratitude and it helps us get more exposure because most people return the favor.

Yes, it’s simple and doesn’t require much effort but in the end, most actions of gratitude don’t require much on your part.  Show some gratitude and you’ll begin to see your network and relationships grow.

Preemptive Action

It’s a no-brainer but preemptive action is really the best way to start off a relationship.  Not only does it make a great first impression, but it also shows the other person that you’re interested in helping them out and that you want to partner with them.  When people feel like someone cares about them, they begin to think of better ideas, create more informative content, and achieve more.  So, why wouldn’t you meet the needs of another person?

A great way to do this is just by asking “What can I do for you?”  Your new aquiaintance might be hesitant at first but after a few minutes, they will begin talking about how you can help them.  I often put this question to work when I connect with someone I don’t know on LinkedIn.  I send them a personalized introductory message and ask what I can do for them.  Some people respond and others don’t but it’s all about the effort.  The relationships that can be built with preemptive action are amazing.  Put yourself out there and serve another person before you need something from them.  At the end of the day, people are going to remember more what you did for them than what they did for you.

Make a good impression and stick in their mind.  You never know what a simple preemptive action might do to your career, home life, or retirement fund.

Conversation is great and it can lead to some excellent opportunities but it’s only the first step in relationship building.

So many people rely on conversation alone to get them through job changes, family issues, and personal problems.  However, actions have more influence than simple conversation.  Actions can show you really care about the relationship and will help create a network based on trust, not simply words.

I challenge you to take action in one relationship each day this week.  Do something for another person and mean it.  You never know how you will be repaid…

Eric Alpin is the Associate Editor of Folk Media and works for a telecommunications company in Baltimore, Md. He is a social media enthusiast, blogger, writer, and student with a passion for leadership and self-development strategies and techniques. Find out more about Eric on Twitter.

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*Photo by flaivoloka

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