The Essential Art of Building Rapport

Building rapport helps to create and develop avenues of mutual trust, friendship and affinity with other individuals. Therefore, rapport is an essential skill to hone. However, most people do not get much instruction or education about the importance of rapport or how to build it. Think about your professional relationships—are you someone who maintains equal and purposeful give-and-take of ideas and opinions with other important figures in your industry? Realistically, you probably either have a natural tendency to dominate or to work quietly from the sidelines. Where do you catch yourself feeling most comfortable? Where can you identify areas for improvement? This article explores building healthy rapport that will position you as a strong and influential leader.

Diverse team of professionals stacking hands in a huddle for teamwork and unity.

What is Rapport?

Rapport is the establishment of pathways between individuals for the purpose of sharing ideas, beliefs, strategies, knowledge and so on. When healthy rapport exists among individuals, relationships grow from a foundation of influence, leadership and strength. Rapport builds upon the essentials of effective communication, which requires that all aspects of communication work together to create shared meaning via interwoven and open communication channels.

Why Rapport is Important in Professional Relationships

It is crucial to navigate professional relationships with a healthy rapport so that you establish yourself as an effective communicator. Unfortunately, failure to communicate effectively is a common problem in work environments. For example, many people fail to understand the significance of all aspects of communicating including nonverbal cues, emotion and context. Communication experts often say that 55 percent of communication occurs through body language, 38 percent occurs through tone of voice and only 7 percent applies to the actual words delivered.

Experts agree that there are five main components to building rapport and being an effective communicator. When communicating with someone, the presenter must:

  • present their ideas clearly
  • the emotions and body language conveyed should match the message
  • the receiver should be listening without distractions
  • the method of delivering the message should be appropriate
  • the content of the message should be clear and detailed.

When a professional does these five things, they show that they are engaged in their work and can be trusted. Furthermore, a good communicator will ask follow-up questions which shows that they are earnestly engaged in the topic of discussion and take great care to understand it fully. This shows respect and an eagerness to diligently work together.

How to Build Rapport

Highly successful people consider building rapport to be instrumental in reaching professional goals because building rapport with a diverse set of people helps them to enhance skills, learn new perspectives and understand a variety of backgrounds. Knowing how to build rapport is essential for anyone who is wanting to achieve goals and establish effective relationships with others. Rapport helps individuals to be influential and persuasive.

Rapport is a fundamental part of effective communication, here are a few ways with which you can work to build rapport with others

  • Be yourself – Try and find common interests with the other person and then build on that in such a way that emphasizes your authentic self. Even if it’s hard to find common interests, just being yourself can help to create a feeling that you are relatable and friendly. Be friendly and let people see who you really are
  • Follow the golden rule – Treat others how you’d like to be treated. Being kind to everyone you meet is not just a good practice for your personal life, it’s good business as well. Take the feelings of others into account when negotiating and establishing rapport because it will position you as someone who does business compassionately which establishes trust
  • Mirror behaviors – When you try to mirror the other person, you will find yourself naturally paying better attention to them because you are listening with your full body. Try to match the body posture, energy level and tone of voice so that you convey that you are fully engaged with the other person
  • Practice reciprocity – Present your support to associates by offering them favors and accepting their offers of favors. This helps to create a flow of support and can be useful when you are in working towards a goal that is hard to achieve by yourself

How Self-Reflection Enhances Your Rapport

As with any type of professional development, it is important to engage in periodic self-reflection to assess whether or not your rapport building skills are up to par. Psychological research has shown that self-reflection is necessary for growth and improvement in life. Additionally, self-reflection leads to higher emotional intelligence which will benefit any rapport building efforts.

Here are a few major ways in which self-reflection will help you build a healthy rapport with others:

  • Assess strengths and weaknesses in order to celebrate your wins and reflect upon improving your shortcomings
  • Notice areas in which you are not living with integrity—separate the ideas of success from ideas of integrity and analyze whether you are routinely doing the right things for the right reasons
  • Get new results by routinely assessing your performance and then making necessary improvements

Various Contexts for Building Rapport

Communication happens in various contexts, so it is important to understand how you can improve rapport in each of these areas. The two major types of communication are face-to-face and written.

Face-to-face Communication

Despite the growing trend to add speed and efficiency to communication in the digital age, there is still something to be said for old fashion in-person meetings. Cyber miscommunications happen all the time and face-to-face communication helps to eliminate these errors by enhancing clarity through body language and other nonverbal cues. Successful executives agree that face-to-face communication helps to enhance trust, understanding and a sense of comradery. Sound familiar? That’s because these traits are at the core of the rapport building essentials.

The numbers back up this idea that face-to-face communication is essential to building rapport as well. 85 percent of professionals who prefer in-person meetings say they feel that being together to discuss ideas, issues and goals builds stronger and more meaningful business relationships than working online does. 77 percent of professionals also indicate that the best part of in-person meetings is being able to read body language, facial cues and tone.

Written Communication

However preferred face-to-face communication may be for some people, there are countless instances in which written communication is not only necessary but more effective. Since written communication is such a big part of professional settings, it is important to work on rapport building skills in that format as well. For most people, however, rapport in written communication does not come naturally.

Think of it this way, if you are sending emails to your boss, clients, potential new partners, etc. that are full of bad grammar, poor spelling, missing punctuation and so forth, you are likely sending a message that you are also sloppy and inattentive towards detail in your work. Good writing skills can lend credibility to your work and your professional image. A sharp professional image, in turn, can enhance your rapport. In order to increase rapport via written word, think about the impression you would like to make on the recipient.

How Building Rapport Will Benefit Your Organization

Most industries are built on a foundation of trust—insurance, healthcare, banking, technology, etc. Consumer trust is at the center of this foundation because without a healthy customer base and/or investor commitment, most organizations cannot survive. Making customers, clients, investors etc. feel like their time is valued and that their experiences with your organization matter will help to enhance a healthy rapport which, in turn, increases their trust in you.

In terms of interpersonal work relationships, building rapport with your coworkers can foster organizational loyalty. In organizations with poor rapport amongst team members, overall workplace engagement and productivity are low. Approximately 30 percent of American employees are engaged in their work. A great way to improve the longevity and overall productivity of your employees is to be a manager who creates valued rapport with their employees. Motivated and engaged employees tend to dedicate more time and hard work to companies in which they feel valued. Additionally, taking on a mentor is a good way to build rapport with your work community Becoming a mentee or mentor demonstrates an ability to listen. In addition to this, it shows that you have patience, vulnerability and a dedication to growth.

Next Steps

Building rapport is ultimately a two-way street, but for those who work on honing their rapport building skills, they find that they can forge meaningful professional connections with just about anyone. If you are looking to enhance your professional network with highly successful individuals in your field, starting by working on rapport will benefit your effort enormously. If you are looking to bring healthier rapport into your organization, you will find that a culture centered around good rapport will increase productivity and employee satisfaction. To find out more about creating and developing mutual trust, friendship and comradery with others, take KnowledgeCity’s course, “Building Rapport.” The course will go in-depth about face-to-face and written communication rapport-building techniques that translate into any workplace context.

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