6 Steps to Building Rapport

Remember when you met your best friend? You may have felt like the two of you quickly hit things off. What you were experiencing was rapport, a French word that means “to carry.” In essence, you carry your relationship forward when you establish rapport with another person. Rapport is a close or positive relationship between two or more people where there’s generally mutual trust, understanding, and agreement. Those who develop these relationships usually have similar interests, values, and behaviors.

In business, rapport is used most often in sales, where you build relationships with your customers. But rapport isn’t limited to customer or client relationships. Building these relationships among co-workers and teams is a critical component of achieving success in reaching objectives. Employees who have comfortable relationships with their managers and their co-workers are happier and have higher levels of productivity. Customers relate better with positive employees and are more satisfied with their dealings with a company.

Two smiling professionals engaging in a cheerful discussion with laptops.

How can you build these relationships with your employees and your customers? Remember, rapport is a two-way street. You can’t build it alone.

6 Factors

Here are six factors to keep in mind when building rapport:

Appearance counts – You only have a few seconds to make a good impression. Make sure you’re neat, clean, and dressed appropriately. Maybe even a little better than the people you’re meeting.

Communication basics Most people respond positively to a smile and their own name, so relax, listen and act appropriately.

Common ground Get people to talk about themselves by using open-ended questions or making small talk. Always be genuine and sincere and don’t try too hard to create instant rapport. Use humor, but keep it light and neutral.

Create shared experiences Whether working on a team project or attending a company event, shared experiences can cement your relationship.

Employ empathyEmpathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes by recognizing emotions and seeing things from another’s perspective. Practice active listening techniques and keep the conversation balanced.

Body languageWe generally relate to people like ourselves. You can use mirroring and matching to create a bond. If a person is subdued, don’t overwhelm that person if you are extroverted. Mirror actions subtly and use similar language styles.

Nonverbal communication is critical to the process. Psychologist Albert Mehrabian found:

  • Seven percent of our communication is verbal
  • 38 percent is the nature of our voice
  • 55 percent is our body language

Building and gaining rapport with others in your workplace and with clients and customers isn’t something you can achieve in an hour or even a day. You should practice building relationships every day by modeling other’s behaviors and paying attention to the results.

Always maintain your ethics and integrity, and enter the process with a genuine desire to build rapport with others or with teams. You may encounter those who don’t exhibit an interest in building a relationship. Open a space for communication and if the other person isn’t interested, let it go. The person may need some time to consider the next step in relationship building.

Don’t Forget to Ask Questions:

Open-ended questions usually elicit responses from most people, but the type of questions you ask can build rapport faster and easier. Effective rapport-building questions meet three criteria:

  1. Personalized – Make the question highly specific
  2. Unique – Unexpected questions result in honest answers and foster the relationship
  3. Appropriate – Avoid nosy, off-putting or out-of-bounds questions

Questions about location, job and career, school and interests, content and activity, and company information are good starting points. These questions will show you have a genuine interest in the other person and would like to learn more.

The Takeaway

The key takeaway is to be yourself, be genuine, and have a real interest in developing rapport between yourself and a co-worker or a team. Don’t view these relationships as just another tool to get ahead. Rapport building that’s based on authentic interest and regard for others will take you much farther in your career. Be willing to meet others halfway and you’ll soon find your rapport at work has improved your relationships and your productivity.

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