I’ve been giving a lot of thought to our Santa performances, appearances and personal inter-actions and I believe I may have identified the single most important thing we can do to improve every single interaction we have as Santa.
Is this the ‘secret’ to the “heart connection” between Santa Claus & everyone he interacts with?
See if you agree and please leave your comments below…
Could the magic bullet for improving Santa performance be RAPPORT?
[ra-pawr, -pohr, ruh-]
A close and harmonious relationship in which the people understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.
What is rapport?
In a word rapport is a connection.
Rapport is based on mutual confidence, respect, and acceptance. I believe enhance the magic & Spirit of Santa when we engage every person we interact with in a way that builds this heart to heart connection.
Learning how to make an initial connection between Santa and the child is obviously important and there’s a bunch of literature demonstrating the importance of rapport for business people.
Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book “How to Make Friends and Influence People” lays out a series of very specific and practical “how to’s” for rapport building that I have used for decades.
Many of these were covered in last week’s training session- “Up Your Santa Game – Rapport”
While establishing trust and gaining rapport can seem intuitive, it is not certain. In reflecting on my own experiences, my rapport with children and adults has been established in many different ways. Also, my ability to establish rapport has improved through the years, due, at least in part, to reflection when things have gone well or poorly.
Understanding the components of rapport, examining my experiences, and recognizing the obstacles to rapport helps me in my reflection.
Sensitivity to the comfort level of a child is necessary to establish rapport.
One of the elements of rapport is commonality. When a child is timid or reserved and we are big and boisterous we lose commonality. The technique we want to employ is often referred to as “mirror & matching”, meaning to reflect back the behavior of the other person.
We also want to be sensitive to the language development of the child. I have asked children “What would you like for Christmas?” And “What do you want for Christmas?”
Many times, 4, 5 and even 6-year old children are confused by the word “like” in this context. The may like going swimming, or like peanut butter & jelly sandwiches… but their list for Santa doesn’t have what they would like, it has what they want.
I have found that asking questions can be a great we start establishing rapport.
In his book “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals” Charles Darwin wrote in-depth about facial expressions and the way they serve as a universal communication system for people.
Nonverbal cues can give you keys to building and maintaining rapport.
Observing a child’s gait as they walk toward you, are they tentative or excited? Their fine and gross coordination can tip you off to possible disabilities or difficulties. Posture and quality & tone of voice will provide you with information you can use to establish rapport.
The environment is also a contributing factor to the ease with which rapport is built. If Santa is in a big throne sitting on a stage this can be intimidating.
Obstacles to Rapport
One obstacle to gaining rapport with a child is the level of anxiety in the child. This can be an issue with children of all ages, but it’s more common in young children.
Anxiety can reveal itself in many ways, including very subtle ways like frequent use of fillers, such as “ah”, slips of the tongue, repetitions, stuttering, and many others can be interpreted as signs of anxiety.
You can often help relieve the anxiety with expressions of empathy which can combat anxiety and provide the child with comfort in an unfamiliar situation. Acknowledge the child’s feelings without minimizing them.
How to Improve Your Rapport Building Skills
In addition to Gold & Platinum level sessions on this topic, I highly recommend reading or listening to Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. I also recommend Tony Robbins’ book “Unlimited Power”. Joining Toastmasters International is another terrific way to work on build this and many other skills that can help you become an even more extraordinary Santa Claus.
What do you think, is the ability to establish rapport the magic bullet for all Santa performances?
Please leave your thoughts below…