Posted on: April 14th, 2011 by Jen Mueller

Earlier this week I spoke to a fantastic group of dieticians at the WSDA Annual Conference.   A few of them were a little skeptical as to how sports conversations would help them disseminate nutritional and health information better, but by the end of the session each participant had a better understanding of how better communication skills build trust and rapport with clients, patients and doctors.

As we were wrapping up, a gal asked for advice in improving a relationship with a particularly terse and uncommunicative doctor.  She found it intimidating to approach him, because he often didn’t acknowledge her presence and dismissed her ideas.  She wanted to try a few of the communication techniques from the presentation, but was afraid they wouldn’t be well received.  After talking for a few minutes, we devised a simple action plan:

  1. Start small – A pleasant and cheerful attitude while saying things like “Good morning!” “How are you?” “Great idea!” go a long way in setting the tone for the interaction.
  2. Learn to make the rounds – This describes the idea that you shouldn’t just call someone when you need something.  I make the rounds in a clubhouse or locker room to help build rapport with the athletes.  I ask about their families, movies they’ve seen recently or great restaurants they’ve tried.  No one wants to feel like they’re just a means to an end.  Take an interest in your co-workers on associates, engage them in small talk, this ensures better rapport and lessens the chance they’ll screen your calls when you actually need help.
  3. Give it Time –  If your co-worker or associate doesn’t offer an enthusiastic response right away don’t get discouraged. It can take time to build trust.  Be consistent in your effort and enthusiasm and your sincerity will shine through.

Talk Sporty to Me Blog

It’s the approach I use with athletes on a regular basis, and it’s what led to a great working relationship with future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.  I met him for the first time when he re-joined the Mariners in 2009.  It took 2 weeks before he stopped scowling and started greeting me with a smile.  In Junior’s case, he’d been burned by reporters in the past and was skeptical of who he could trust.  He needed some time to determine that I was sincere, truthful and trustworthy.  Taking an interest in him as a person helped build rapport and made it easier for me to ask for interviews.  It led to success at work and a friendship.

Striking up the conversation can be as simple as saying “Good morning!  How was your weekend?”or “What a great game last night! Did you see it?”  Check out our list of sports conversation starters if you need a few more ideas and happy talking!

This is just a small piece of the Talk Sporty to Me game plan. If you’d like more information, personal coaching or to book Jen for an event, send her an email