I have spent this week with groups in Rugby and Uttoxeter covering the incredibly important subject of influence. As part of the discussions, we have touched on the notion of rapport and how you can build it with others in your personal and professional life.
Government Health Warning! Let me say from the outset that I have a belief that you should only use rapport with positive intent, not to manipulate others to do something that, while maybe in your best interests, is most definitely not in theirs.
Why is rapport important? Because it oils the wheels of any relationship. It is important in sales, management, coaching, in fact in any area of life really.
When you are in rapport with someone, your ideas and suggestions are more likely to be accepted, by-passing the conscious, more critical filters of the other person.
So, what exactly is rapport? Well, there are many definitions but they all indicate that it is a feeling you get when you and another person are in sync with each other. Roget’s Thesaurus defines it as:
“A close connection marked by community of interests or similarity in nature or character”
OK, how does it work? Rapport can happen quite naturally. Or, you can build it by using the technique of matching. you can match:
The words and phrases that the other person uses The tonality they use to say the words they say Their non-verbal communication (or body language)
Let’s look at the words first (he said visually). The words that come out of our mouths do not happen by accident. They are a representation of they way that we process information.
A person with a preference for visual processing will use phrases like:
“We need to keep things in perspective” The future is much brighter now” “Things aren’t always black and white”
A person with a preference for auditory processing will use phrases like:
“That sounds about right to me” “Can we have a quick chat about it” “What does that tell you?”
A person with a preference for kinaesthetic processing will use phrases like:
“I need to get to grips with this” “That gesture really touched me” “I’m trying to bend my head around that one”
Finally, a person with a preference for auditory digital (more non-sensory) processing will use phrases like:
“That makes no sense to me” “We need to think logically about this” “Let’s consider how this might work”
I hope that you can see how this idea works and what it says about rapport. Once you have grasped the notion, you will no doubt analyse how you can use this in your life.
The next way of building rapport is to match a person’s tonality – they way they speak. The two key areas here are the pace at which they speak and the volume.
Now, I tend to talk fast and loud. I often have to slow down and quieten my voice in order to connect with someone.
Please note at this point that you should never try to match someone’s accent or dialect (why does the word “exterminate” come into my head her???). Frankly you are not as good as you think you are and it will potentially damage rapport!!!
Finally, you build rapport by matching the other person’s physiology. This includes:
Their posture (how they are sitting or standing) Their gestures (what they do with their arms and legs) Their facial expressions (e.g. if they are smiling) Their breathing patterns (try breathing out as they are talking to you) Have a look at the picture at the top. It is a good example of two people matching elements of their physiology.
OK, I hope all that makes sense to you. The real key to matching is to do it with subtlety and elegance. If the other person becomes consciously aware that you are doing it, it will be construed as mimicking and will break rather than build rapport.
If you have never used matching before, it will seem strange initially. With practice it can become second nature and you will find yourself doing it without realising.
So, the trick is to practice in safe environments first and notice what happens. It’s about listening and observing carefully how the other person communicates.