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Building Rapport

By Rowena Crosbie

building rapport

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Rapport is a feeling of comfort, trust and understanding you can have with someone else. Rapport makes it easier for us to be assertive, influential, accommodating, persuasive and relaxed with someone. Because rapport happens as a result of the way we interact with someone, we do not have to wait for it to happen naturally. By using the right behaviors and avoiding others, we can make it happen more quickly.

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone and felt that you were really on the same wavelength? What caused that feeling?

Have you ever been in discussion with someone and suddenly felt that rapport was gone? Why was that?

Have you ever tried hard to get along with someone to no avail? What happened?

Do you know anyone who seems able to get along quickly with a wide variety of people? How does he or she do that?

There are two key behaviors that can assist you in building and maintaining rapport. They are matching and reflecting.

MATCHING

People who get along well tend to mirror each other’s body language.

Research has shown that people who have good relationships with each other will naturally assume a rhythm that matches the other party – in body language, cadence and movement.

To improve rapport, use matching body language, cadence and movement. Also, look for opportunities to “speak the same language”. Does the individual you are negotiating with use language that would suggest they have a preference for auditory learning? Individuals with an auditory preference will use phrases such as: “I hear what you are saying”, “How does this sound?”

Matching (and symmetry) also extends beyond body language and learning preference.

Recent studies have looked closely at the process by which parties engage one another. Specifically, one project carefully monitored 47 encounter groups that bring together Jews and Arabs in Israel in hopes of promoting better relationships. Many of these groups involve adults, though some involve children as young as preschoolers.

The researchers tracked the degree to which communication was balanced, as defined by how often and how long various participants spoke. Speaking time was roughly equal in many instances, a possible reflection of both the goodwill of people who chose to take part and the facilitative skill of the conveners. In some cases, however, one side dominated the conversation. That asymmetry likely exacerbated differences between groups.

It’s not enough to get the right people to the table. To build and maintain rapport, how we communicate must be considered. Communication that is balanced carries important symbolic messages about respect. More powerful parties need to be especially careful not to inadvertently dominate conversations and put others in a position where they feel they must save face.

REFLECTING

Asking questions about what was just said and summarizing or reflecting words back to others increases comfort and rapport.

Use your good listening skills and your asking questions skills.

Resist the temptation to interrupt others and finish their sentences for them.

People tend to get offended when someone tells them what they should do or what they ought to do.

Sentences that begin with yes and are followed by but are offensive and negate the yes.

When someone says “to be honest” it throws into question the honesty of the rest of the interaction.