Have you ever known people who immediately connect with others? It doesn’t matter who they meet, they create mutual understanding and trust. These people seem to have a natural ability. However, anyone can learn the skills of rapport and nurture them.
What is rapport?
It is the establishment of two-way connections by forming a meaningful harmonious relationship between people based on mutual understanding of trust and agreement. It basically is an emotional connection with other people.
It is usually based on shared experiences, points of view and shared humour.
Everyone can benefit from having rapport with others. Whether with colleagues, friends, families, within the community or as a customer, building rapport is important in our personal lives.
When you first meet someone new, you start to build rapport. Small talk will help you find things in common and build a shared bond. It is much easier to build rapport with someone who is very like you, or who shares common interests.
Employers are more likely to employ someone whom they think will fit in well with their other staff. Personal relationships are easier to make and develop when there is a close connection between people.
According to researchers Linda Tickel-Degnen and Robert Rosenthal, when you have a rapport with someone, you share:
- Mutual attentiveness, because you are both focused on and interested in what the other person is saying and doing.
- Positivity, because both parties are friendly, happy and show concern and care for each other.
- Coordination, as you feel in sync with one another because you share a common understanding. Tone and body language is also similar.
Rapport is the tool for building relationships; establishing a bond or connection. Sometimes there is an immediate connection – someone ‘clicks’ with another person. Sometimes the connection develops slowly. It can intentionally be built or just develop naturally.
Blessing White’s 2009 survey found that the effectiveness of a relationship was in the relationship building. The survey found seven actions which are most valued and these actions to build rapport are:
- Communicate clearly and candidly
- Establish clear performance objectives and milestones
- Deliver on promises
- Recognise outstanding contributions and achievements
- Take action to ensure others feel important, trusted and valued
- Be available when they need advice, information, decisions or problem solving
- Respect their ability to make decisions
1. Communicate clearly and candidly
For many, starting a conversation with a stranger is stressful. These people may be lost for words, and sometimes have awkward mannerisms and body language. To overcome this nervous anxiousness, try to relax and be calm. Use non-threatening and safe topics for initial small talk such as the weather, how you travelled to where you are at the time. Listen to the other person and look for shared experiences or circumstances.
Learning some rapport skills will be helpful. Consider the following:
If building rapport face to face remember the basics.
- Check your appearance, as first impressions count
- Be culturally appropriate
- Maintain a good posture with chin up
- Remember people’s names
- Listen carefully and attentively
- Don’t outstay your welcome
Whether face to face, via email or phone, communicate clearly and candidly. It is important to be genuine, honest and sincere.
As previously mentioned, it is ideal at the beginning of the conversation that you find common ground to assist the development of rapport. Find something you can share via small talk. Ask a question, as most people like talking about themselves. Remember the acronym FORM – family, occupation, recreation and mutual interest – to base your questions. If you quickly show interest in the other person they are more likely to relax and ‘open up’.
If your experience is work-based, perhaps instigate shared experiences. This may be attending conferences, talking about problems and solutions, strategies or management structure and processes.
If you can, add humour, as laughter creates harmony. Avoid jokes about other people or anything which may offend or cause disagreement.
Be conscious of your body language and maintain eye contact. Mirror their body language if appropriate.
Demonstrate that you can see the other person’s point of view. Acknowledge their opinions. Be empathetic. Be non-judgemental. Remember rapport is finding similarities with others.
Be genuine, polite, offer compliments and avoid being critical.
If you don’t know the answer to something or make a mistake, be honest and acknowledge it.
2. Establish clear performance objectives and milestones
When a task is to be started, set the objectives. Here are some tips.
- Keep it simple. Focus on objectives that you know you can achieve in the given time frame.
- Be specific. When setting your objectives, discuss the different ways to reach the end result. Have a written action plan including who is responsible for the actions and the time expected for completion.
- Make it measurable. Choose a method of measurement. This may be based on numbers (say a number per month), discussion times (example: one on one with a manager/ leader / coordinator), dates (completion dates for various aspects) or stages (invitations, organisational steps, replies, catering). Find a method of measurement which suits your task.
- Consider small goals to achieve the key result. Mini goals also assist you to set up milestones throughout the process which will assist progress.
- Celebrate and recognise. Reward yourself and others when a milestone has been achieved. Verbal, social platforms, a kind gesture reinforces that you are on the right track to achieve the goals.
3. Deliver on promises
Consider these main points:
- Remember to not over-promise as the bigger the promise the less likely you can keep it.
- Think before you promise to do something. Ask yourself: What are they asking of me and can I keep the promise?
- Make sure you understand what is required and when.
- Communicate often with the person to make sure you both mutually agree to the objectives and the process taking place.
- Give it your best and deliver it completed, on time and done well.
- Stay present and available – ask if anything else is required and offer further assistance.
4. Recognise outstanding contributions and achievements
Personally, and if appropriate, publicly acknowledge outstanding contributions and achievements. This helps to build relationships.
5. Take action to ensure others feel important, trusted and valued
- Recognise people one to one or in a group setting. This can be done in small ways every day and in bigger ways at intervals. Praise goes a long way. Thank people for their time and effort.
- Provide positive feedback that what they have done is appreciated and valued.
- Solicit their opinion and take on board the opinion if it is a good idea.
- Communicate well and frequently so they feel they are ‘in the loop’.
- With a high level of transparency, people will feel trusted and feel as though they are an important part of the work, company, association, project or event.
- Offer them a new opportunity or a new role; small or big
- Show appreciation with small tokens such as free food, a badge, a birthday cake.
6. Be available when they need advice, information, decisions or problem solving
Always be available for their needs. This may include a personally related issue, general or specific topic discussions, sharing information, assistance with decision making or problem solving.
7. Respect their ability to make decisions
In a work or community situation, provide opportunities which give the right level of challenge, showing that you trust their capabilities and decisions. On a social occasion provide opportunities to be part of a function or event.
You can benefit from having rapport with others. Whether with colleagues, friends, families, within the community or as a customer, learning the skills for building rapport, putting them in place and practising them will enhance your relationships.