Rapport

by Arielle Essex

Common questions

  1. I’ve received feedback that I lack rapport and people skills. How can I improve my style?
  2. How can I develop better rapport with someone I dislike?
  3. How do I get rapport with a group?
  4. How can I get rapport on the phone?
  5. How do I know if I have rapport or not?
  6. How do I know if I’ve lost rapport, and then what do I do?
  7. How do I develop rapport with someone who seems emotional – angry, sad or unhappy?

 

1. I’ve received feedback that I lack rapport and people skills. How can I improve my style?

Start by matching the overall demeanour of the people you are communicating with:

  • Dress – appropriate for the situation
  • Manners – follow acceptable procedures, politeness code, greeting customs, proximity, seating and so on
  • Mood – your mood should respect the purpose of the meeting; match the tone rather than interrupting by voicing disagreements and counter-examples
  • Values – acknowledge and respect others’ opinions and positive intentions; agree with whatever you can, and then state your opinions using ‘and’ instead of ‘but’
  • Physiology – know how relaxed to be, how much to gesture, how fast or slow to breathe
  • Key words – use their exact words to match their criteria
  • Volume – how loud, passionate or quiet
  • Content – how much content is expected – an overview or detailed account?
  • Energy – how positive or serious, what is being emphasised, and what is the focus and purpose?
  • Speed – what is the pace of thinking, speaking, gesturing and moving?

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2. How can I develop better rapport with someone I dislike?

Because people have different attitudes and preferences, they choose to focus on different things. You don’t have to like someone in order to create rapport, increase cooperation, get agreement or win respect. Simply meet their expectations and match their style of delivery. Never match unhealthy states or values. Instead, look for common objectives and positive intentions that you can match while honouring your own values.

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Fine-tune your ability to understand and get rapport.

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3. How do I get rapport with a group?

Group dynamics require rapport skills that differ from one-to-one methods. Since it is impossible to match every person at once, you need to decide who is/are most important to match, with regard to the topic and outcome. Although it may be tempting to play to the more friendly people in your audience, the key people are the ones you need to focus on. Strategically select the key leaders who have decision-making power and win their agreement. Match sensory input styles, quantity of information expected and the four components of the 4-Mat System: Why? What? How? What if?

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4. How can I get rapport on the phone?

Be clear, polite and straight to the point. Match the energy and type of response you receive from the other person. Sound relaxed and willing to offer assistance. Give the person your complete attention. Sit straight or stand up for important calls as this will give your voice more credibility.

Match:

  • Voice speed
  • Volume
  • Breathing
  • Content.

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5. How do I know if I have rapport or not?

This is evidence that you have achieved rapport:

  • The conversation flows easily
  • Each person has space to speak fully
  • You succeed in giving or receiving the message
  • Fewer interruptions, with no awkwardness
  • You conclude the conversation gracefully.

There are also specific physiological signals that will give positive indications that you have ‘permission’ to speak and deliver important messages:

  • Breathing – low and slow
  • Normal skin colour
  • Relaxed gestures and voice tone
  • Normal eye contact
  • When people are in rapport, they will usually lean towards each other, looking relaxed and interested in what is being said.

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6. How do I know if I’ve lost rapport, and then what do I do?

You have lost rapport when communication lacks clarity, when there’s resistance, discomfort, unease, confusion, challenges, criticism, disagreements, coldness, arguments, conflicts, stonewalling, withdrawing, hidden agendas or political power plays. Situations like this often result in feedback about lacking people skills, needing leadership training, being hard to read and not acting as a team player. There may be difficulty bringing people with you and getting agreement; you may not feel supported by staff or team, and you may feel unappreciated by upper management.

Doing a good job is not enough. If you have lost rapport, you need to practise all aspects of matching, being credible and approachable, using the five-step process, and decontaminating hot topics. Depending on how and when you have lost rapport, many different elements of rapport building will be useful.

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7. How do I develop rapport with someone who seems emotional – angry, sad or unhappy?

The ability to deflect negative energy is a vital skill. Whenever you have heated communication, bad news or an unpopular topic, remember this most effective tool: ‘Get it off to the side’. Capture the essence of the problem onto a piece of paper or flip chart – hard copy. Focus your eyes on this while communicating the bad news – look at it and gesture towards it. Do not look at the listener(s) when discussing the negative topic. Use a level voice tone and match the concerns and passion of the listener(s).

Then hold the paper to one side or walk away from the flip chart. From this location, make eye contact with your listener(s), gesture back towards the item, and discuss possible solutions. This helps to deflect the negative energy away from individuals, so that stress levels reduce and better thinking can take place.

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You can also use this five-step process to carefully handle someone who is clearly upset:

  • Observation – what specifically has happened as the immediate trigger?
  • Feeling – what is the specific emotion? (You may need to ask.)
  • Need – what is the underlying need they wish to fulfil?
  • Match – how can you agree with, respect and match that need?
  • Request – what action can be done to help meet that need now?

Note: this process can be used to amplify a happy state.

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