Some people are naturally good at establishing rapport and seem to have a knack of getting on with everyone they meet. But it's also something you can learn and develop.
Here's a quick guide to some of the techniques and strategies that could help you become a rapport pro in no time at all.
Master the basics
Practise all the things you may have already heard about communicating effectively with someone. This includes:
- Maintaining good eye contact (don't look at the other person too much as it could make them feel uncomfortable - aim to look at them for around 60 per cent of the time)
- Smiling and nodding when appropriate
- Shaking hands firmly
- Keeping your posture open and positive
- Asking the other person open questions (that is, questions that require more than a yes or no answer such as how, when or why)
- Using the other person's name during the conversation
Use personal connections
Having something in common with someone is a great way to create rapport. You've just got to find what that common ground is.
And the best way to do that is to ask open-ended questions to find out more about the other person. Perhaps you're from the same part of the country as them, attended the same college or university, have people you know in common or similar hobbies. Perhaps you both have a dog or a cat, or a passion for cooking, golf or motorsports.
But be careful. Don't try to force it, as you could risk coming across as insincere.
Be a mirror
Have you ever noticed how two people who look like they've known each other all their lives and are deep in conversation often adopt the same posture and movements? This is what experts call mirroring. And while it can happen naturally when you're with someone you already have rapport with, it can also be used to establish rapport with someone you don't know too.
It may seem forced at first, but observe how the other person is standing or sitting and what gestures they're using, then copy them - though don't make it look too obvious, because if they notice what you're doing it could make them feel uncomfortable.
You can also mirror speech and language. Notice how quickly or slowly the person you're speaking to is talking, plus the pitch and volume of their voice - then match it (again, be subtle).
The type of language they use can also be useful for building rapport, such as simple, direct words or technical or business terms. Responding to the person you're talking to with a similar type of language - including the same key words or phrases - may make them feel more relaxed and comfortable around you.
The key to successful mirroring is to keep practising, so try it out on people you know before you attempt to use this technique with someone in an important situation, such as a job interview.
The way you look and the clothes you wear can help to establish rapport too, especially in your professional life. Imagine a situation where your appearance is completely out of tune with someone else's - when you're dressed casually in jeans while the other person is in a suit (or vice versa). One - or both - of you is likely to feel uncomfortable, which won't help you build rapport.
But if you're both dressed in a similar type of clothes, you're more likely to feel at ease. If you don't know how someone you're going to meet is going to be dressed, aim for a smart look that you can dress down quickly by taking off your jacket or tie, if necessary.
Show some empathy
Empathetic people find building rapport more natural because they see things from someone else's point of view and understand how another person is feeling.
One way of having more empathy is to really listen to what the other person is saying and what they're trying to communicate. Imagine what things may be like for them, and how you might act in a similar situation.
Also be prepared to be flexible in your attitude, and try to resist being determined to get your way or prove that you're right. Keep an open mind and be non-judgemental, and empathy will come naturally.
Observe the masters
We all know people who make connecting and bonding with others seem effortless. These are the lucky individuals for whom rapport is almost second nature. So whenever you're around them, try to notice how they connect and engage with others, as well as how the people they're talking to respond to them. Then practise the same techniques yourself until it comes naturally to you too.
If you need help developing your career, why not give one of our CABA support officers a call on +44 (0) 1788 556 366 to discuss career coaching? There's also help available in the form of our online career support as well as our career adaptability courses.