Although rapport can exist naturally between us, it’s an important skill in knowing how to intentionally build rapport when needed.
When we are ‘in rapport’ we have a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned are “in sync” with each other, understand each other's feelings or ideas, and communicate smoothly. This state of being enables better quality decisions, easier problem solving and more productive cooperation.
With enough rapport almost anything can be achieved, so here’s some tips to get started.
Find some common ground
People in rapport tend to match each other at many different levels. You may have noticed that when you have been in rapport with someone that your non - verbal behaviour was like a mirror reflection of each other. In fact, this occurrence is called
People mirror each other not only in their non - verbal behaviour but also in their choice of language, the way they speak, their style of movement, their values and beliefs and even in their breathing patterns. In fact, our level of rapport increases when we have anything in common with someone, including our habits, hobbies, profession, culture etc.
Although there may be some people with whom you naturally find yourself in rapport, there will be others with whom rapport does not naturally exist. With these people it can be useful to create an atmosphere of rapport by deliberately matching some of these elements as well as simply searching for things you have in common, things you can agree on, or values you both appreciate etc.
For example, if you are in a meeting with someone who has a very relaxed style, sitting back, talking informally, using humour, then it would be good for you to adopt a similar approach; to realise that this meeting could be more informal than perhaps you expected and so to adopt this style too, also being relaxed and easy going, getting to really know each other and the things you have in common.
That does not mean you should ‘copy’ their style to sit and speak exactly as they do, but rather to access your own authentic way of being relaxed and comfortable, ask questions to learn more about them and share some of your experiences that could be of interest to them.
Use your body language and voice
If you were to see two people in rapport you would notice that they were sitting in a very similar position, moving sometimes at the same time, both speaking more quickly or slowly or laughing together. In fact, the impact of our body language and way of speaking together, creates over 90% of the impact of our total communication, whereas what we are speaking about, even the things we have in common create less than 10% of our total impact.
As our focus and awareness in a conversation is mostly on the content, we can understand why rapport can seem ‘magical’ as its often out of our conscious awareness and therefore seems to just happen or not.
So, part of the secret of rapport is to increase our conscious awareness of all aspects of the communication, so finding things in common to talk about, or ways to reach agreement, but also starting to observe and listen carefully to the other person for ‘how’ they are behaving and speaking.
Then slowly increasing our speed, volume or tone of speaking or adjusting how we’re standing or sitting to be more similar, (not identical or copying) just using similar gestures or movements and even aligning our energy level by being calmer or energised.
As all things, this takes practice, but when you start to see the difference from even small changes you make, you’ll be hooked on learning more of the skills of rapport building and gaining the benefits of better quality personal and professional relationships, that lead to easier agreements, quicker solutions and successful collaboration for all.
Go deeper in understanding The Magic of Rapport in our next blog.