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Building a Rapport

Building a Rapport


This feature has been provided by Jonathan Hart-Smith, Managing Director of CK Clinical Limited. The feature contains useful information for rapport buliding.
Last Updated: 27-Aug-2010

If you form a bond with people, and they feel an affinity with you, you will have stronger, more effective and enjoyable relationships. Even if your interaction is brief, whether it be dealing with a customer, a colleague or even attending a job interview you can get more out of the situation if you feel a shared purpose. I hope this article will serve to outline some basic techniques for forming a rapport quickly.

Some people say that rapport is formed in the first minute and a half. We are all familiar with the expression “first impressions count” and like it or not, it’s true. When you meet somebody face to face or talk to them on the telephone for the first time judgements based on our first impressions are made without even consciously thinking about it. So this first minute and a half is your chance to form a bond that will set you off on the right path.

Some of the techniques briefly touched on here are effective because they relate to how you use your body language, tone of voice and to a lesser extent what you actually say. Obviously what you say is important but perhaps less so than you think. In the first minute and a half you wont actually get the chance to say much but you will be able to use your body language and the tone of your voice. Research indicates that the message you are trying to convey in these early stages comes 55% from your body language, 38% from your voice tone and 7% from what you actually say (source Prof A Mehrabian). So you can imagine that mastering the body language and tone of voice and using it in this way can really effect the outcome of your interaction.

Your greeting should be warm and friendly and you should take the lead. Many of these actions are more obvious face to face however some of them can still be used effectively on the telephone particularly where your voice is the main tool you are using:
  • Open your body, don’t cover your heart with your hands, unbutton your jacket and point your shoulders squarely at your contact.
  • Be first with eye contact. Look this person straight in the eye and let your eyes reflect your positive attitude.
  • Smile honestly. This may sound strange but be first to smile and smile sincerely and don’t grin excessively (you don’t want people to think you are scary). You can do this on the telephone as well, people can hear if you have a smile on your face as this will come across in the sound and tone of your voice. Not to mention making you feel better. You can fool your brain into thinking you are happy even when you aren’t.
  • Say “Hello” warmly the lean closer and extend your hand to the other person to shake. Your handshake should be firm but not crushing. A limp handshake makes people think you are weak, a crushing handshake makes people think you are controlling and intimidating (or that you would like to be – which could be even worse).
Your openness and willingness to take the lead will show that you are approachable and a friendly person. You will come across as somebody that your contact feels comfortable with and wants to know better.

The next step to establishing your rapport is finding some common ground, a shared comfort zone. People with a common interest have a natural rapport. We have all experienced a relationship where we immediately hit it off with somebody and it’s often because we see something of ourselves in them.

If you don’t have this natural rapport however, you can engineer it by purposefully reducing the physical and emotional distance between you and finding common ground and “synchronising” with the other person. This synchronisation means that you will both be subconsciously feeling, seeing and hearing the same things as each other. This means that while you are in this state you will have a similar outlook and understanding of the situation and therefore be able to have a more effective conversation and it will potentially give you a good starting point from which to bring them round to your way of thinking.

Engineering this level of synchronisation and rapport is often easier face to face but can be achieved on the telephone by applying the vocal elements of the following techniques. Your facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, breathing rates and stance all contribute to your alignment and finding some common ground. They will be thinking “I don’t know what it is about this person but I like them”.

So the techniques to synchronise start with: 1. A genuine attitude – If you have a genuine interest in the other person and a positive attitude it will show
2. Mirroring and Matching the person – This is often referred to as “Pacing”. This requires you to match their tone of voice, speed of dialogue, types of language, stance and rate of breathing. You are not copying the other person exactly but the general “feel” of them
3. Asking them questions about themselves – People like talking about themselves. Your interest in them will not only give you more information about them to fuel your conversation but also make them feel that you value them. A word of warning on this however, if the person becomes defensive and doesn’t like talking about themselves this will be obvious and you need to change the subject to less personal questions until they feel more comfortable with you.

Synchronising with defensive or difficult people can be real fun. When you start, you will mirror their crossed arms, their rate of breathing, tone of voice, their tight jaw and quick hand gestures. After 20 - 30 seconds of mirroring or pacing you can start to think about taking the lead. Open up, uncross your arms, loosen your jaw, slow your speed of talking and soften the tone of your voice. You will be surprised how soon a defensive or difficult attitude changes and they subconsciously follow your lead. If you are not in rapport your change in tone will not work, go back to mirroring your contact and start again.

If you are thinking “wont this person notice me copying them and be annoyed?”. The short answer is no not unless you are blatantly copying their every movement. Once you are synchronised though you can relax and be yourself and they will be copying you.

Once you are “in sync” with somebody you can further develop your rapport by using the type of language that they identify with. People loosely fall into three categories; those that are Visual people, those that are Auditory and those that are Kinesthetics (or feeling) people:
  • Visual people tend to care a lot about how things look including their appearance. They think in pictures and see things in their minds eye. You will find that they tend to work in jobs that require fast decisions and they will often want to be in control because they have a vision of how they want things to work.
  • Auditory people as the name would suggest are influenced by sound. They love conversation and can often have melodic and expressive voices. They tend to talk more slowly than visual people and occupy jobs where communication is important.
  • Kinesthetics are influenced strongly by their feelings. They can often speak very slowly as it can take time to put their feelings into words. When they talk they will often look down, drawing upon their feelings before conveying them to you. They can be very tactile as they put a lot of emphasis on touch and sensitivity.
You can normally tell what type of person you are dealing with after talking with them for a while and you can start to use the words and language that appeals to their personality types. A word of warning here though. It may well take you longer than a minute and a half to really know what type of person they are but you can at least pick up some clues.

For example, Visual people might use words and expressions like “How does that look to you”, “I see what you are saying”, “Lets focus on this issue”. They will subconsciously respond to these types words alluding to something visual and this will further enhance your rapport. Auditory people will “Want to see how this sounds to you”, “Hear you loud and clear”,“Repeat what you say word for word” , and Kinesthetics will want to “Get a feel for the situation”, “Stay in touch”, and “Be able to handle the pressure”.

Communicating with people in their own types of words means that you will appeal to their sense of shared purpose and further enhance the level of credibility and rapport that you already have.

Next time you are in a situation where you are talking or meeting with somebody for the first time, try using these techniques for synchronising and appealing to their personality type through the right type of language and see if you feel a better Rapport with them.

If you are in an interview environment you can’t rely 100% on having a good rapport, you will need to be able to demonstrate that you can do the job you are being interviewed for as well, but it will give you a definite edge if you can form a good bond with your interviewers from the first minute that you meet them.

All of the techniques outlined here are simple Neurolingustic Programming (NLP) techniques. If you are interested in learning more about these techniques or would like more details about how and when to use them, the internet is full of articles about NLP, many books have been written on the subject and there are coaches available to help you. Alternatively if you would like more information or training on the use of these techniques specifically in an interview environment, please feel free to contact Jonathan Hart-Smith at CK Clinical.