Building Rapport

building rapportThe first thing in any conversation is to build rapport.

Rapport is the sense that another person is like us.  Building rapport is a pattern-matching process.  Most rapport-building happens without words. We create rapport through a dance of matching movements including body orientation, body moves, eye contact, facial expression and tone of voice.

These natural dance patterns can disappear in conversations at work. A little conscious effort to create rapport at the very start of a conversation can make a huge difference.

We create rapport through:

  • Verbal behavior
  • Vocal behavior
  • Physical behavior

Verbal behavior is the least contributor to building rapport. Overwhelmingly, we believe what we see. If there is a mismatch between a person’s words and their body language, we instantly believe what the body tells us.  So building rapport must begin with giving the physical signs of being welcoming, relaxed and open.

Vocal behavior is the second key factor in establishing rapport.  We can vary our pitch, pace, and volume.

Speak quickly and loudly, and raise the pitch of your voice, and you will sound tense or stressed.  Speaking in a lower, slower and softer tone and you will create rapport more easily.

Creating rapport means more than matching body language or vocal tone.  We must also match the other person’s words so that they feel we are ‘speaking their language’

Starting a conversation with someone we don’t know is stressful.  We are lost for words; “Breaking the ice” is a skill many of us would love to develop.   The key is to decrease the tension in the encounter.  Look for something that you both have in common, then ask a question relating to that.  The other person must not feel excluded or interrogated, so avoid:

  • Talking about yourself
  • Asking the other person a direct question about themselves

Doing either will increase the tension in the conversation, take the initiative, put them at ease and you will soon relax yourself.

rapport bulidingLearning the art of conversation

  1. Copy the other person’s body language to create a ‘mirror image’
  2. Ask three questions – but no more until you have done the next two things
  3. Find something from what you have just learned that will allow you to compliment the other person – subtly
  4. Find something in what you have found out to agree with
  5. Repeat until the conversation takes on a life of its own