Building rapport helps you to better connect with other people. Colleagues and clients might be part of your professional environment, but you still need to recognise them as warm-blooded and human. Your success at work depends on them, working around them or despite them is counterproductive. Only by working with other people can you develop the strong working relationships that bring mutually beneficial rewards.
As explained in our eLearning Learnflix course on Building Rapport, this is a skill that only comes through an honest willingness to commit to it. Think of it as a marathon rather than a sprint. There are no short-cuts, just step by step progress towards building a sincere relationship with someone you value. If you don’t value them, or don’t intend to try, your chances of building rapport are sunk before you start.
Working with someone who’s hard work
It only takes one person to bring rapport to a grinding halt, its absence is a breakdown in communication between at least two people. You might be tempted to tell someone else about the frustrations in working with that person, but that would only be half the story.
What could you have done differently? It’s not an empty question. If you want rapport, you’re going to have to pinch your nose and get back in the water, it might be uncomfortable but that’s why you need commitment to see it through. It’s worth remembering that it only needs one person to turn failure into success.
Practice helps. By building a little rapport even when you don’t need to, you’ll become consciously aware of how you’re responding to people. It’s better to smile at the barista serving your coffee for example rather than simply take the cup without a glance.
Be present in the moment
Without even a basic level of interest, communication will simply be transactional or even risk straying into manipulation. If you think about rapport only when it matters to you, you may get into the habit of only putting on your skills when you need to – which to others may feel like you’re putting it on. People are intuitive, most of us are sensitive to insincerity.
Try watching the link between interest and rapport in other people. Moments of adoring adulation or blunt dismissal aren’t particularly instructive. It’s the everyday subtle exchanges of eye contact, body language, tone of voice, enthusiasm and agreement that pave the way towards smoother relationships, better understanding and stronger results.
Everything starts with being present in the moment. It’s hard to build a connection with someone who’s gazing at their phone. Being present means focusing fully on the person you’re speaking to. At big events, avoid glancing across the room looking for the next person you’re hoping to talk to. This, like looking at your phone, is a rapport-breaking indication of where your interest really lies.
Relying on reciprocity
Being in the moment lets you build a connection that can be developed through reciprocity. If someone shows an interest in you, if they ask you questions, if they listen, if they try to understand your world, you’ll be more likely to try to understand theirs. You have to be focused on the other person. What do they need as opposed to what do you need? How can you help them, rather than how can they help you?
Listening can be deceptive. Leadership guru and author Stephen Covey wrote: “Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” A transactional exchange of information isn’t enough. There needs to be what Covey calls “empathic listening”, where we truly hear what someone has to say.
This process is nurtured through sincere curiosity and questions. If you ask a question, you’re demonstrating an interest in someone. That in turn will lead them to want to engage more with you, the conversation develops and rapport will build. It’s not always easy, but persistence will pay off. Don’t risk being marooned at work with someone you can’t connect with. By learning to build rapport, over time communication will become plain sailing.