Building Rapport

“What you should do is…”, “What you have to understand is…”, “Yes but….”, “Like I said to you before…” If a person started their sentences like this odds are people wouldn’t feel a sense of camaraderie and warmth. Shockingly though, in many business environments people are saying statements like these left right and centre. How to tackle these behaviours is through learning the art of building rapport. Previously, we discussed creating company culture, but with a lack of rapport within a business the culture will invariably remain as it was. Bringing people along on a journey is critical to a business and other relationships which requires more than one person’s help. It’s also a skill that all levels of business people (and people in general) can learn to create goodwill and galvanise other people to an idea. Once it’s established it can be used to gain trust, find common ground and eliminate differences.

93% of How. 7% of What

Building rapport starts with the words we say and ends up being about what we don’t say. Most of what we really have to communicate is done through our actions. For example, 7% of communication is done through words, 38% through the tone of our voice and 55% by our body language(1). To get a real sense of another individual it is best to have a conversation with them face-to-face, that way we can absorb the remaining 97% of what they are trying to say.

Two Layers in Rapport.
What you see isn’t what you get.

There are two levels of how we experience communicating a message to another person. The conscious level and the unconscious level.

On a Conscious level, rapport can be created by doing a host of actions that are obvious to the other person which whom we are connecting. They include dressing the same same, speaking the common jargon, discussing the same topics, watching the same programs and sharing the same hobbies.

The Unconscious ways to develop rapport is through “matching and mirroring” and paying attention to the tone of your own voice. These are subtle cues which are difficult to read by the other person but conveys more information about your intentions than any spoken word.

Become a reflection

In sales teams, one of the techniques that they train to their staff in is to “match and mirror” the other person or prospect. That is, to become a visual reflection of the person sitting opposite them. In psychology school they are taught the same technique. So why is matching and mirroring so important in human relations?

When you adopt the body posture of the other person, it is showing to the other person that you are not only listening with your ears, you are listening with your entire body (2). In the case when the opposite person’s posture is hostile (e.g. crossed armed, crossed legs, tense face), then you can choose to adopt the most open posture you can (hands on knees, not crossed legs, relaxed face). This relaxed posture shows that you are open and willing to listen their point of view. The other reason why matching and mirroring works on the unconscious level is that it gives the other person permission to be themselves.

Dulcet or Dictatorial?

The tone of voice that a person chooses to use will steer the direction of the conversation, and in some cases its outcome. If the initial tone that is taken is “to tell” the other person something, regardless of the body language, the conversation will soon go south. Tone goes hand-in-hand with building trust when we are developing rapport.

Additionally, paying close attention to our breathing will help control the tone of our voices. How quick or slow are we breathing? Is it through the nose for deep breathing or is it shallower, through the chest? When we listen to our own breathing we can adjust it to match the purpose of the conversation.

Tone of voice can be applied to personality profits. For example we can learn to applying different tones of voices to the 4 DiSC Personality Types to help a group or individual of the same preference feel comfortable. Below are suggestions on how to approach each DiSC Personality type when there is a high level of one of the 4 quadrants present:

  • High S (Steady) - adopt a steady, soothing (dulcet) tone, slower in speed, lower octave.
  • High D (Dominance) - adopt a louder toned, quicker paced tone of voice.
  • High I (Influence) - keep it light, fun and melodic (match the anthem music in their head!).
  • High C (Conscientious) - try taking a matter-of-fact, to-the-point tone of voice.

Use the Force Luke

Once a Business Leader has mastered the art of building rapport they have the choice to use the positive energy they generate for achieving all sorts of positive goals: business growth, mending relationships, creating societal change, inciting a peace rally, saving the planet, joining the Rebel Alliance. The reason why rapport brings people together is because of what it does. It reduces the number differences between people and increases the number of similarities. With more people like you around, the world would be a much better place to live in.




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