Rapport is a state of harmonious understanding with another individual or group that enables greater and easier communication. In other words rapport is getting on well with another person, or group of people, by having things in common, this makes the communication process easier and usually more effective.
Sometimes rapport happens naturally, you ‘hit it off’ or ‘get on well’ with somebody else without having to try, this is often how friendships are built. However, rapport can also be built and developed by finding common ground, developing a bond and being empathic.
Rapport is important in both our professional and personal lives; employers are more likely to employ somebody who they believe will get on well with their current staff. Personal relationships are easier to make and develop when there is a closer connection and understanding between the parties involved – i.e. there is greater rapport.
The first task in successful interpersonal relationships is to attempt to build rapport. Building rapport is all about matching ourselves with another person. For many, starting a conversation with a stranger is a stressful event; we can be lost for words, awkward with our body language and mannerisms.
Creating rapport at the beginning of a conversation with somebody new will often make the outcome of the conversation more positive. However stressful and/or nervous you may feel the first thing you need to do is to try to relax and remain calm, by decreasing the tension in the situation communication becomes easier and rapport grows.
When meeting somebody for the first time some simple tips will help you reduce the tension in the situation enabling both parties to feel more relaxed and thus communicate more effectively:
Make sure the other person feels included but not interrogated during initial conversations, as you may feel tense and uneasy meeting and talking to somebody new, so may they. Put the other person at ease, this will enable you to relax and conversation to take on a natural course.
Although initial conversations can help us to relax, most rapport-building happens without words and through non-verbal communication channels. We create and maintain rapport subconsciously through matching non-verbal signals, including body positioning, body movements, eye contact, facial expressions and tone of voice with the other person.
Watch two friends talking when you get the opportunity and see how they sub-consciously mimic each other’s non-verbal communication. We create rapport instinctively, it is our natural defence from conflict, which most of us will try hard to avoid most of the time.
It is important that appropriate body language is used; we read and instantly believe what body language tells us, whereas we may take more persuading with vocal communication. If there is a mismatch between what we are saying verbally and what our body language is saying then the person we are communicating with will believe the body language. Building rapport, therefore, begins with displaying appropriate body language – being welcoming, relaxed and open.
The way we use our voice is also important in developing rapport. When we are nervous or tense we tend to talk more quickly, this in turn can make you sound more tense and stressed. We can vary our voices, pitch, volume and pace in ways to make what we are saying more interesting but also to come across as more relaxed, open and friendly. Try lowering your tone, talk more slowly and softly, this will help you develop rapport more easily.
Helpful Rapport Building Behaviours