Building a Rapport
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 empathetic.
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 we have listed some simple tips which will help you reduce the tension in the situation enabling both parties to feel more relaxed and communicate more effectively:
Use non-threatening and ‘safe topics’ for initial small talk. Talk about established shared experiences, the weather, how you travelled to where you are. Avoid talking too much about yourself and avoid asking direct questions about the other person. Open questions are good in this instance as it enables you to start a conversation.
- Listen to what the other person is saying and look for shared experiences or circumstances, this will give you more to talk about in the initial stages of communication.
- Try to inject an element of humour. Laughing together creates harmony, make a joke about yourself or the situation/circumstances you are in but avoid making jokes about other people or the person you are speaking to.
- Be conscious of your body language and other non-verbal signals you are sending. Try to maintain eye contact for approximately 60% of the time. Relax and lean slightly towards them to indicate listening, mirror their body-language if appropriate.
- Show some empathy; demonstrate that you can see the other person’s point of view. Remember rapport is all about finding similarities and ‘being on the same wavelength’ as somebody else, so being empathetic will help to achieve this.
- Make sure the other person feels included but not interrogated during initial conversations, as you may feel tense and uneasy when 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.