When it comes to communication skills, we talk a lot about being assertive, being an active listener, having good presentation skills, and so on. One element of successful communication that is often overlooked is the power of being able to build good rapport with others. Rapport is the process of establishing some form of emotional connection with another person, whether it be a colleague, a client or a personal acquaintance.
When it comes to business, being able to develop connections with people means you are more likely to succeed in negotiation, persuasion and creating long-term beneficial partnerships.
Some people might argue that building rapport is a natural gift and that some people are simply born with the ability to charm and connect with others. Therefore, many of us dismiss it as something that we can’t learn. Whilst the ability to build strong rapport can come naturally to people, it can also be a skill that you actively work on and nurture over time.
We’ve put together a list of tips to help you start thinking about your rapport skills. These skills will not only improve your ability to build strong connections with others, but in so doing, they will assist you when it comes to any communicative activity. Anything from negotiation and persuasion; to networking or leading a team.
- Check your appearance. It may sound insignificant, but the way you present yourselves is crucial to how you will be perceived by others. For better or worse, studies have shown that within 7 seconds of meeting someone, we make up our minds about them. Try to dress appropriately based on who you’re meeting and the environment you’re meeting them in. In a business context, looking smart ensures you lead with your professionalism. It also indicates that you care about your appearance. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed when you’re trying to build trust with a client or establish a strong relationship with your boss.
- Know your strengths. It should go without saying that being confident (but not arrogant!) in your own abilities will help you come across well. Beyond this, knowing your strengths means you can utilise them to help you succeed. Get in touch with your leadership style, your personality, and your other workplace skills. Connecting with your best self helps you present yourself in the most positive way to others and in turn, build stronger connections.
- Research. Don’t go into a meeting or engagement blind. This point is mostly relevant for building rapport with internal colleagues or during business-to-business engagements. Assuming you are prepared from a business perspective, make sure you familiarise yourself with the people you’re meeting and their professional backgrounds. LinkedIn is your best-friend, allowing you to see the information that the other person is willingly sharing. This will also help you break the ice.
- Break the ice. If you’re a skilled communicator, you probably know how to break the ice with someone new and avoid any awkward silences. Making people feel instantly comfortable around you allows you to gain their trust, meaning they will hold your opinions in higher regard. As a starting point, consider talking about established shared experiences. Perhaps something related to your industry. If all else fails, you can always bring up the weather, or how you travelled to where you are. It’s important that you don’t pry into the other people/person’s personal life, as direct questions can be intrusive in the early stages of a professional relationship.
- Be interested and empathetic. Rapport is based on trust, and people will be more likely to trust you if they feel valued. When trying to build rapport, follow the conversation closely. Empathy is about understanding other people by seeing things from their perspective, so it’s important you ask them pertinent questions and truly listen to what they have to say.
- Find common ground. Finding a common ground will aid you in building trust, as mentioned previously, asking relevant questions should allow the conversation to flow naturally, as you both have an input to make. You do not need to be the person talking the most to be the person leading the conversation. Take your cues from them, if they bring up a personal experience, you can mirror and match their conversation style. By letting them speak, you will learn valuable information about what’s important to them, which you can tap into when it comes to negotiation and persuasion.
- Be open and honest. Being open doesn’t mean that you have to divulge personal information, but rather that you are willing to be honest. We all have professional personas, and they are undoubtedly important for our reputation and how others respect us. However, if you want someone to trust you, you must be willing to show a more human side of yourself at times, even if it is just a little piece of honesty about how you may be feeling. The professional world is full of people showing up as their best selves, but when someone dares to provide an insight into their real selves, they can create stronger connections.
- Non-verbal Communication. Body language is crucial when trying to build rapport. Pay attention to your posture, eye contact and facial expressions. It’s important that you don’t make any indication that you are disinterested, such as checking your watch or looking out the window. A rule of thumb is to mirror the person as they speak to you, try to face them and subtly match their expressions. This shows that you are tuned in to their feelings.
Some of these elements can be difficult, maintaining professionalism whilst trying to be open, dressing smart but wanting to make the other person feel comfortable, etc. With time and practice you can find the ideal balance and hone this skill until it is second nature.
Ultimately, if you only have one takeaway from this article, it’s that you should try to be the friendly, engaging and interested person you would like to meet. Practice these tips and you’ll succeed in creating strong, valuable relationships, through which you can build your influence and leadership muscles.
As mentioned, being able to build rapport is a beneficial skill that can be applied to all forms of communication, but it is only a starting point. Trainer Bubble offer resources to help you or your employees develop their communication across the board, including through our new Persuasion Skills E-Learning Course.
You can also help develop the communication skills of your workforce using the products on the pages below…