"Rapport is the ability to enter someone else's world, to make him feel that you understand him, that you have a strong common bond."
– Motivational speaker Tony Robbins.
Have you ever known someone who has a knack for connecting with people?
No matter who this person meets, he or she manages to create a sense of trust and understanding within a matter of minutes.
We can intuitively believe that this is a natural gift – either you can build rapport like this, or you can't.
However, this isn't correct: developing rapport is a skill that anyone can learn, and then use. And it doesn't matter what industry you're in or what position you hold – knowing how to build rapport can bring you countless opportunities. After all, when you have rapport with someone, that person wants to help you succeed!
So what is rapport? And how you can learn the skills needed to build it? We'll examine all of this, and more, in this article.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines rapport as "relation characterized by harmony, conformity, accord, or affinity."
Put simply, you have rapport with someone when there is mutual liking and trust. Once you've established rapport with a person, he or she is far more likely to be open with you and share information, buy your product, recommend you to others, or support your ideas. And when someone has established rapport with you, you're likely to do the same.
Building rapport is a skill that you can use anywhere.
For instance, you can use rapport to:
In short, establishing rapport with people can open doors, create opportunities, and lead to excellent relationships.
Rapport is similar to trust, and you can often build trust and rapport simultaneously. However, building rapport focuses more on establishing a bond or connection.
Clearly, you can build rapport honestly, or you can use it cynically.
Good team working, for example, depends on good relationships. Honest rapport-building is great for developing these, and it benefits everyone.
However, if you're building rapport to sell someone something that they wouldn't otherwise want, or that will do them harm, then this is cynical and manipulative. Watch out for this type of rapport-building – you may encounter it often!
We'll now look at strategies and techniques that you can use to build rapport with others.
Think of how comfortable you might feel if, while living thousands of miles from where you grew up, you met someone from your hometown. That sense of connectedness creates an instant rapport between two people!
When you meet someone new, do your best to find something you have in common. Use open-ended questions to discover some personal information about the person: perhaps you attended the same school or university, have the same favorite vacation spot, grew up in the same city, know the same people, or root for the same sports team.
Remember, any common ground can help establish rapport – it can even help to have an interest in someone's life or hobbies, or to share similar beliefs and values.
It's important to be sincere here; don't make up an interest in something just to create rapport. Not only can this seem desperate; it can dent your credibility!
How you dress is a key component of making a great first impression and establishing rapport with someone. Your appearance should help you connect with people; not create a barrier.
For instance, imagine you're a sales rep calling on a plant supervisor. You're dressed in a well-tailored, expensive suit. Meanwhile, the supervisor has been working out on the floor all day; he's dressed in jeans, a worn flannel shirt, and work boots. The difference in your appearance is likely to make him feel uncomfortable and perhaps even slightly resentful.
A good rule of thumb is to dress just a little bit "better" than the people you're about to meet. Whenever possible, find out about this in advance. If you arrive and see that you're overdressed, you can quickly "dress down" by taking off your jacket or tie and by rolling up your shirtsleeves.
Empathy is about understanding other people by seeing things from their perspective, and recognizing their emotions. Once you achieve this, it's easier to get "on their level."
To be more empathic, develop your emotional intelligence so that you can understand others better. You can also use Perceptual Positions – a technique for seeing things from other people's perspectives.
Mirroring is when you adjust your own body language and spoken language so that you "reflect" that of the person you're talking to.
For example, law enforcement professionals apply the mirroring technique when interviewing witnesses, especially those who have been through a traumatic experience. They might mirror the victim's body language, and adjust the volume and tone of their voice to match the victim's.
To use mirroring:
While mirroring is useful in building rapport, don't match every word and gesture. Also, do this on a subtle level – being too overt can be counterproductive.
Clearly, mirroring can be a very difficult skill to master. Consider using role playing to practice it.
In developing rapport with others, you should also use the tried-and-true basics of good communication:
These basic tenets form the foundation of great communication, and it's hard to establish good rapport without them.
Although there will be times when you will need to build rapport with someone quickly, it's best done as part of a longer-term relationship.
It's important to use your best judgment when applying these techniques – as we've already mentioned, using these techniques incorrectly or dishonestly can actually stop you building rapport with people.
Once rapport has been lost, rebuilding it takes time.
First, confront why you lost the rapport in the first place. Be humble and explain honestly and simply what happened. If you need to apologize, do so.
Next, focus on ways of repairing any broken trust. Make an extra effort to put in extra work if you need to, and keep your word. Transparency and showing a genuine concern for the other person's needs will go a long way in rebuilding trust and reestablishing rapport.
You build rapport when you develop mutual trust, friendship, and affinity with someone.
Building rapport can be incredibly beneficial to your career – it opens doors and helps establish good relationships with clients, colleagues, and team members.
To build rapport, use the following strategies.
Building rapport is best done in the long-term. But you can use these strategies to build it quickly, if you need to.
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