Communication skills are so important to any relationship. When you are connected to others, you can understand and empathize with each other, and get along harmoniously. You can build good rapport with anyone by sharing interests, experiences, and feelings.
Motivational speaker and life coach Tony Robbins says building rapport is critical in business. Mike Gilmour, author of The Power of Rapport, says the ability to build rapport is the most valuable skill anyone can have.
What Is Rapport?
You may have heard about rapport, but just what is it? The Oxford Learners Dictionary defines rapport as a friendly relationship between people who have a good understanding of each other. It’s a harmonious relationship with trust, connections, shared feelings, and good communication. The Masterclass.com teaching on rapport explains that rapport is developed from mutual communication and openness to understanding others.
Mike Gilmour, author of The Power of Rapport, reminds us that rapport is about emotional connection and understanding between two people. Although building rapport means different approaches in different settings, cultures, and generations, being friendly and approachable is at the core.
Robbins defines building rapport as creating a connection with mutual trust that leads to good relationships that benefit all involved. He says when you have rapport, you can work with your team and customers with loyalty and connection. That creates the kind of harmony that fosters respect and collaboration.
Why Is Rapport Important?
Gilmour defines rapport as a deep emotional connection between two people, as well as understanding and trust. He says that that to be productive, people need authentic human connections. Rapport builds those connections and relationships, both personally and professionally.
Rapport is important because it helps establish comfortable environments, both at home personally and work and business environments. Leaders who excel at creating rapport are able to more easily influence the people around them and in their organizations. Gilmour says a leader’s first priority should be to build a connection through rapport.
Meaningful connections and relationships are a sign of a great company culture that is functioning successfully. Gilmour says body language, facial expressions, and communication style give clues to whether there is good rapport or not, and that observing these in leadership and the workforce will show whether there are good connections established.
How to Build Rapport and Connect With Others
While strong verbal communication skills are very important, they alone don’t establish strong connections and build relationships. That requires rapport-building strengths including a wide range of social skills. Remembering and using people’s names, finding common ground, actively listening, reserving judgment to be open to understanding, being aware of your body language, and asking questions all demonstrate your willingness to forge relationships and connect. Showing that willingness to build relationships is what is embodied in rapport.
If you want to know how to build rapport with colleagues, read some of Tony Robbins work. He recommends being friendly and open in your body language and verbal communications because it shows you care about the interactions, and that builds trust. Use the following skills and strategies to build good rapport and connect with others on a personal level at home and at work.
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Author and trainer Jennifer Farmer and Tony Robbins both know that to be able to build rapport, you have to know yourself and have self-confidence. In order to extend yourself to make connections, find common ground, and build trust, you have to first believe you are worthy of the interaction. Low self-esteem will get in the way of connecting with others, and sabotage relationships. Connecting with your truest self is key to connecting with others. Robbins suggests personality assessments like the Disc Assessment to understand your personality and communication style.
Ask About Family, Friends, or Pets if Others Mention Them
In many situations, people love to talk about their family, good friends, and pets, and these topics are a good way to make close connections. They are subjects that can create feelings of shared experiences and passions and commonalities. But be tactful and only inquire about them if the other person brings them up or mentions something positive about them. These can also be sensitive areas, so be very caring when asking so you don’t appear to be overstepping.
Listen – Really Listen
It’s very easy to only give half of your attention when you’re busy and there’s a lot going on, but to build rapport you need to really listen to the other person, giving your full attention. You need to practice active listening, spending more time listening than talking, being open and focusing on what the other person is saying. Active listening skills include:
- Briefly summarizing what you’ve heard.
- Using positive prompts during the conversation, such as “Oh?,” “I see,” and “Go on.”
- Labeling the emotions you hear, such as “It seems like you’re worried about that,” or “It sounds like you’re happy about this.”
- Asking probing questions to get a better understanding of what’s being said, such as “Where do you see this leading?”
- Exploring consequences by saying something like “What would happen if…” or “Remember the last time this came up? Do you think that might be the case this time?”
Be careful with your tone and direction of the interactions when practicing active listening not to be too abrupt, patronizing, or pushy with questions. Be friendly, open, and caring to show your interest in understanding and connecting over a shared communication.
Ask Them to “Tell Me About Yourself”
When talking to others, especially if they are new to you or you are trying to get to know them at first, ask them to tell you about themselves. NPR host Terry Gross starts her interviews this way to avoid putting her guests on the defensive while also learning about them. Say things like “So tell me about you,” and “Now you’ve heard a little about me, what about you?” to put them at ease and show your interest in more than just a superficial conversation.
Identify the Positives
Train yourself to identify the positive things about everyone you interact with, including enemies and annoying colleagues. Listen and watch for the unique and worthwhile characteristics of others and you will come to focus on their positive contributions more than any negatives, enabling you to build rapport with them. Taking this approach with every interaction will help overcome the obstacles to connecting and enable easy rapport building.
Make Others Feel Good
Be mindful of making others feel good in your interactions with them to build rapport. Make them feel important and valued by asking their advice or point of view and caringly considering their input. Compliment them to people around them, and relay positive things others have said about them to you. Make a connection through good feelings and honest observations of their good points.
Find Common Ground
When you want to make a connection with a co-worker, employee, acquaintance, or loved one, find common ground that you both agree on or feel similarly about. Stay away from charged political or religious topics, but look for common interests or hobbies or passions to discuss and get to know each other better with. Finding things you both are involved or interested in to talk about creates shared experiences and opportunities to learn from each other in an enjoyable way. This builds a fun and interesting foundation from which to grow a relationship.
Choose a Small Venue
To get to know someone better, whether it’s an acquaintance, client, or co-worker or employee, move the conversation to a smaller venue. If you work in a large department, ask to meet for coffee. If you’re at a large event, move from a large group setting to a smaller one-on-one area. If you want to talk to someone more in-depth, ask to schedule a separate time to talk in a quieter place with less traffic or activity. This allows you to show interest in the other person and a willingness to focus on your communication to build good rapport.
Communications and relationship experts like Tony Robbins and Mike Gilmour know that the key to relationships is building good rapport. While it may not come naturally to you, rapport-building strategies and techniques can be learned and the more you practice them, the easier it is to make real connections that improve your life and work.