Three steps to building better relationships with anyone

In coaching and life our goal is to create rapport with people and make them feel we're connected—here's the three steps (and a couple of magic lines) to make that happen.

There are three steps to building better relationships with anyone—and yes, you can definitely try this at home.

In the world of coaching, we call creating deeper connections building rapport and ultimately, what it means is you’re with another person and you feel connected.

You click. You get each other.

Then there are other people you meet and conversation feels forced and clunky and could end up on the subject of the weather. You feel you’re speaking different languages when you’re not. Nothing is landing.

The interesting thing about humans is we’re wired for connection and feel a sense of wellbeing when we connect with people around us.

That’s why proximity is not intimacy.

Ultimately in coaching our goal for our clients is to help them feel like we’re connected and are building a relationship of trust, so they can go, ‘Oh, you get me.’

Here’s a wonderful tool to use not just in the coaching session but with your family, friends, team mates, everyone. Just go crazy with this one because when people feel connected they feel important, like they’re seen and like they matter.

(Oh, and if this is something you'd like to hear more about, I'll be talking about this and a stack more amazing coaching strategies at The Coaching Institute's three-day 'Coaching Masterclass Series' with Sharon Pearson, Joe Pane and other expert coaches from August 18.)


A lot of people make the mistake to be a know-it-all, especially if you take pride in your intellect. They use conversations as a showcase for their opinions of the story of what’s going on in their life. That might be okay, but the question is, how does the other person feel?

You want them to feel engaged, and I think a really great way to do that is go in with the attitude, how can I make you feel awesome as a result of me beng here?

It’s not about, how can I feel awesome as a result of you just listening to me and taking care of me.

(Side tip: if you go into a relationship to take care of someone, you will be taken care of.)

When they’re speaking, listen, lean in, pay attention to words and body language. Be super present. Lock eyes. Put away your phone. Don’t read the newspaper or look around for someone more interesting to talk to.

Communicate with your full presence that you are there for the person.


The next thing that really helps build better relationships with anyone is asking questions. A good rule of thumb is asking three times the number of questions that you share about yourself.

The most common conversation is where someone asks a question, the other person answers and asks their own question. Try and short circuit this in a great way by asking a couple of questions in a row before you volunteer information. You’ll have a great conversation and create rapport.

When a person shares someone with me, I use a magical line. Trust me, it works in every situation.

Tell me more about that.

Even if you don’t know anything about what they’re talking about, ask more questions by saying, “Tell me more about that.”


The last part of the strategy is to be aware of the stories you’re telling yourself about what the person is actually saying. In coaching we call this fact versus fantasy. A lot of the time we get caught up in what’s inside our head and we’re no longer present to the person in front of us.

We’re present to our self talk instead.

Think of someone saying to another, “I want to go out for lunch.” The other person says, “Don’t you want to spend time with me?” All the first person said was they were going out for lunch, but their friend has had a fantasy conversation in their own head.

To stop this happening, when someone tells you something that you react to, check in what they really mean. One great way to put it: “What do you mean by that?”

This fact finding exercise is one of the most important things to do to keep people together. When I’m working with individuals or especially couples, most of the problems they have are made up.

A lot of the time we guess someone’s intentions behind their language and this is a sure way to separate ourselves from them because we’re living in our heads, in a loop of information that may be wrong.

I recommend practicing this with absolutely everyone around you. It’s a great way to get our of your head and back into your body with a deep sense of connection.

If this resonates with you or you're curious about learning more coaching frameworks and strategies, click here to learn more and book your spot for the 'Coaching Masterclass Series' from August 18.

Matt Lavars is one of Australia's leading coaches, trainers and speakers, and head facilitator at The Coaching Institute. In between mentoring thousands of coaches and leaders all around Australasia and helping others build incredible culture, Matt is passionate about fitness and music. His healthy office lunches whipped up in five minutes are the stuff of legend.

Matt Lavars
Dream TeamThe Coaching Institute