Building Rapport

At the risk of sounding like the late Andy Rooney, have you ever noticed that there are some people who just seem to “click” with just about anyone?  These people walk into a room and everyone gathers around to hear their story about taking out the garbage. Whereas your story about your trip to Hawaii only gets yawns. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. And my trip to Hawaii was amazing! Still, what is that “je ne sais quois” quality that some people have that allows them to easily captivate others?  It’s known as rapport, and according to researchers Linda Tickle-Degnen and Robert Rosenthal, of Brown University and Harvard University respectively, having rapport means that you are:

  • Mutually attentive—focused on what the other person is saying and doing
  • Positive—feeling happy and showing care and concern for another
  • Coordinated—your body language, tone and energy levels are “in sync”

The nice thing about rapport is that it can grow naturally or it can develop intentionally.  However it occurs, once it happens you are better able to influence others as trust builds. So how do you build rapport with others?  Here are some tips:

Check your appearance

If you want people to connect with you, make sure you look the part.  You have one opportunity to make a great first impression. Dress neatly and professionally. And remember, when in doubt about the dress code, it is better to be overdressed than under-dressed.

Be aware of how you communicate

Speak slowly, remember people’s names and listen attentively and carefully. Doing so shows that you are interested in what others have to say.  In particular, speaking slowly shows confidence and credibility.Confidence and credibility are significant to building rapport.

Find commonalities

Did you and the other person attend the same college or high school?  Did you participate in the same sport growing up?  Conversely, do you share the same frustrations about your daily commute? This isn’t just fodder for chit-chat.  Sharing common interests or identifying common ground helps draw you closer to others.

Encourage others to share information

Once you find what you have common with the other person, let him or her talk about it.  Letting others talk will have them thinking that you are a great conversationalist. Be sure to ask why/how/when questions. Those type of questions will spur others to share more. Remember, people like it when others listen to them and people hate it when others don’t listen to them. So, be the one who is known for truly listening to what others have to say.

If you are good at building rapport, people feel better after having met you and that is how relationships and connections are cultivated.  At one time or another, we’ve all been with people who either suck the energy out of us or make us feel worse after the encounter. If you want to build rapport, you have to focus on the other person in order to create a positive experience for both of you.