I’ve got to be honest–I’ve never been a cool kid. I’m okay with that.
And because of that fact, I’ve struggled to gain rapport with students. This is why I love Junior High students–for the most part, they think that I’m cool just because I’m hanging out with them. We play games, we eat pizza, and we are best friends. High school is much more difficult.
I used to think that I just had to force rapport–I’d:
- Tell them they can “ask five questions they want about me”–but it usually ends up in an awkard conversation about my lack of a love life, or an even more awkward reveal about my crazy family.
- Go ahead and “share my testimony” with them so they know up-front about my crazy family. But this actually has created walls. My life is pretty unique, and unless I’m talking to a certain group of students, all it says to students is “I come from a completely different background than you.” I received feedback in my internship four years ago this from the group of suburban high school girls I worked with. They felt like they couldn’t relate to me off the back.
- Interrupt a conversation to share a random story about my sister, my cat, my first car, my high school days, etc.
And so I’ve realized something…
Students don’t care about my life.
Now, that isn’t completely true. But there’s one important truth:
Students care when I care about their life.
Want to build rapport? Quit talking about your embarrassing high school moments out of the blue. Ask them questions! Ask them about their family, their school, and more! Learn to be more of a by-standard and absorb conversations, and when there’s a natural moment, ask a question that opens the floor and creates rapport.
Here’s an example–on our mission trip, someone brought up a scar story or something like that, so a leader asked: What is the stupidest way you’ve ever gotten injured? Soon, students are laughing and sharing their stories with one another. Then I get to share how I once sucked a cup to my face so hard, it wouldn’t come off…and when it did, I had a huge circle bruise. Yes, I essentially gave myself a hickey gotee around my mouth. But had I been like, “Guess what guys? One time…” they would have laughed and gone “Wow she’s weird for sharing that out of the blue” and then Snapchatted to their friends about the weirdo adults on their trip.
It’s kind of like that basic dating rule (you know, since I’m such a guru): Listen more than you talk. If you talk too much about yourself, then that person is going to think that you only care about yourself. Teenagers want to talk about themselves to people who want to listen.