It seems like with some people, interacting with them can be like pulling teeth or walking on egg shells. You have to be ultra careful in what you say or do. It is almost as if you are darned if you do and darned if you don’t.

We often live in fear of causing harm or further harm to certain relationships. Sometimes we avoid certain people, and sometimes there are certain people we can’t avoid. Sometimes it may appear as if someone is avoiding us, or perhaps somebody just won’t acknowledge that we exist.

This post focuses on a few strategies to build better rapport with people whom you don’t necessarily have the best rapport with. This might include people that you don’t know that well, you are not all that close to, or interact with only in times of need. Perhaps you would like to know someone better or maybe there is a person in your world who intimidates you, or your intuition hints that there is a sense of disinterest, dislike, anger or needless tension.

Building and maintaining functional relationships with those whom we have to interact can be very hard work. We all have functional and dysfunctional relationships with people we know. Sometimes relationships with specific individuals range from mostly functional to occasionally dysfunctional. Sometimes we have to interact with people that are highly dysfunctional or we aren’t really that crazy about. They may not be going away anytime soon, even though we wish they would. People on this list might include colleagues at work, employees of places of business that you frequent, family members and ex-spouses or partners.

Several monts ago I met woman named Tracy who works in the same office building as I do. My first impression was that she was polite and friendly, just not that friendly. It seemed as if she was standoffish or unreceptive to getting to know me. My initial question to myself was, is it her with her, or her with me? Fast forward to several months later and our relationship continues to improve, over time. We cross paths with some frequency and now there is en element of safety, trust and rapport.

By being perceptive and receptive, it is possible to accelerate to a closer more positive relationship and have more effective interactions more quickly with the people you might not necessarily like (yet), or that might not necessarily like you (yet).

When I say perceptive I mean get outside yourself and see, non-verbally, how people are responding to you. When I say receptive I mean that it is okay for people to not like you, as it may not be your fault. Be open to improving your behavior as you probably are not exactly perfect (yet), and neither are they.

Here we go:

1. Use People’s Names (Name Calling…in a good way)

Learn, remember and use people’s first names. People have a tendency to learn the names of those they like or are interested in. They tend to ignore the names of people who are neutral, uninteresting or they have a mild dislike for. We also, unfortunately, unintentionally and easily learn the names of people we have a very strong dislike for.

Many employees in places of business have name tags, where it is easy to know and call them by their name. Practice by using the names of complete strangers and test to see if you receive a higher level of customer service. Using a person’s first name opens the door for relationships to begin and for people to care about each other at a higher level. At networking events, exchange business cards, associate a name with a face and practice using their name.

Learn the names of people you don’t know and don’t necessarily like (yet), as well as those you have to interact with. If you are a in a leadership role, keep in mind that you should learn and know the names of as many of your peeps as you possibly can regardless of their position within the organization. Knowing, remembering and using names increases the quality of relationships.

Names are hard to remember. Practice by saying the person’s first and last name 100 times in a row and associate their name to other’s you know with the same name. I recently had to remember the name Belinda. I only know one other Belinda, so I associate or pair the new Belinda with the one I have known for many years.

2. If you are in a leadership position and want to be a better leader and or networker, become more inclusive and less exclusive. Be more selective with your inner circle, but expand your outer circle. Often, the higher people climb on the company ladder the bigger their ego becomes and the more they begin to exclude people. Great leaders are counter intuitive and include without excluding.

3. Acknowledge people by giving compliments and positive recognition to anyone when they do something great, regardless whether you like them or not. Ask yourself if there something you can compliment this person on? Perhaps their smile, a particular outfit they are wearing (guys be careful — I really like the blue color of your sweater is different than wow, you look hot!) Research indicates that women want to be complimented on their smile, and men on their sense of humor. One caveat, if they don’t have it, don’t compliment on it.

It is useful to build a positive bank account with people. Seattle based marriage researcher John Gottman describes it as an emotional bank account. By filling the account with compliments and positive recognition you have a stronger foundation and a positive reserve to draw from at a time when you may need to correct or recover from a negative event. When teenagers do their homework and chores on time, they have a better chance of getting to use the family car or getting to stay out later on a Saturday night. http://www.gottmanblog.com/2013/02/apply-research-building-your-own.html

4. Be in service and helpful to other people. Ask people if there is anything you can do to help them. There is a person named Barbara who is on the board of a trade group whose meetings I attend. In my past 5 interactions with her, I get the impression she isn’t very social nor very friendly. I often arrive at the meeting earlier than most to network. Barbara often is placing program materials at every seat. Twice now I have asked her if I can help. She says yes and I do. My sense is that we still have low level of rapport, yet I do keep trying in hopes of turning the tide someday. I am learning to exercise patience, and believe I will know her better someday. You may have to wait for that perfect moment for the stars to align before that opportunity to enter their world presents itself.

5. Be careful not to judge people. People often have a sense of tension when people are judging them. Walking in their shoes and understanding what that is like is a difficult task for many people. As executive coach extraordinaire Marshall Goldsmith says “Help more, judge less.” http://www.marshallgoldsmithlibrary.com

6. Ask yourself what would it take to like this person or have a better relationship with them? This is important to do with those people you have to interact with that are not going to go away anytime soon. As amazing leader Frances Hesselbein suggests, have a blood type of B+ (Be Positive!) even when you don’t feel like being positive or playing nice with someone. Operating with positive intentions while treating people with respect, integrity and politeness can go a long way to winning them over.

7. Some people, for whatever reason, just have to pick you. They are not going to let you pick them. Ignoring people and pretending as if they don’t exist, is very effective strategy in some cases, and isn’t being mean. I have used this strategy successfully many times when the usual way doesn’t seem to work. If you have a specific well formed outcome, remember when something doesn’t work, try something else.

8. Be more outgoing, extraverted, playful and gregarious. If Robin Williams walked into a room you would probably instantly know it. Be more fun and see if it influences the quality and quantity of your relationships. Intrigue people and have them be excited to know you!

I walk with a friend occasionally. When I first was getting to know her, she was always very kind and polite, but not always that playful. When we walk now, she lets the playful entertaining actress side come out and she is very entertaining to be around. She has a deeper level of trust and safety with me than she had initially.

9. Remember to say please, thank you and I am sorry. Some relationships improve quickly when there is an acknowledgement an apology for some event in the past that continues to taint the relationship today. It takes a big person to recognize and apologize for something they didn’t do well or contributed to. It is amazing how effective it is.

Some relationships take more time than others, have more substance than others and last longer than others. So be receptive to the idea of meeting one new person everyday and strengthening or repairing one old relationship everyday. Be thrilled when you can shift an old relationship from negative to neutral. At least it will make it easier to contend and deal with in the long run.