5 Ways to Build Instant Rapport

by Betty Lochner on August 27, 2010

Rapport — a personal connection, that is harmonious or sympathetic.

Do you think of yourself as a good rapport builder?
Do you always get along with people the instant you meet them?
Even if you think you are pretty good at natural rapport building, you probably could get even better at making connections with others, right? Like my friend, Mikey (pictured) – sometimes we think we are good connectors, but we really should wake up and work a little harder at it!

Natural Rapport

Sometimes rapport happens naturally. Have you ever just “clicked” with someone?  You instantly like them or find yourself thinking I’m not sure why, but I really like this person. I want to be their friend! For some reason, they have quickly displayed themselves to you as someone you can trust; someone you find credible and likable.

How does that work?

The main reason that people click right away is that they immediately find a common interest. The reason you get along with your friends is that you have a lot in common – your age, your economic status, your family make-up, and your personal interests. You probably have similar opinions and may even share some mannerisms – outgoing, shy, fast talker, etc. Sure, you may find things you differ on, but in most ways, you are very much like each other.

And, when rapport doesn’t happen right away?

Far to often, we don’t have a natural rapport with someone when we first meet. In fact, many times just the opposite happens.  No matter how hard you try, with your boss, with your date, the officer that just pulled you over, you just aren’t connecting.  It just doesn’t click.

When you first meet someone – at a job interview, in a meeting, by chance –  you go through your own little routine to establish a connection. When this works out you have rapport!  When it doesn’t, the person you don’t click with becomes your focus (eg. this person is a jerk, I feel uncomfortable) instead of the message you want to convey. Your attempt at successfully communicating with this person is likely to fail.

People Like People Like Them

When the interests of two people are synchronized, they are in rapport with each other. It all comes down to this: learn how to become like them. This can be made fairly simple and can even be a lot of fun.

Here are 5 tools that, if you really do try them out, will instantly help you build better rapport.

1) Choose your attitude. Your attitude always proceeds you, especially in a face-to-face interaction. Begin the interaction with a smile, an open mind, a positive attitude, and make it your responsibility to find a connection.

2) Observe the other person’s behavior. Watch their mannerisms – how they sit, how fast they talk, whether they lean in, talk with their hands, shuffle their feet, etc.

3) Mimic the body language you’ve observed. Deliberately, but subtly, alter your behavior for a short time. Establish a physical connection. Adapt to their mannerisms and communication style. Remember, people like people like them. Use open body language. Your body doesn’t know how to lie and any contradictions in body language will interrupt rapport.

4) Find some common ground. What do you have in common?  Keep digging until you find something. Is it the the way you like to sit? The color of your notebook? The pictures of their kids?  Your hobbies? Where you live? Work to find something in common that you can both relate to.

5) Listen! Practice your active listening skills, the most powerful connector of all! Find out who they are, what makes them tick and make a personal connection!

These tools really will help you build and maintain rapport, and can be successfully used with people you’ve know for a long time, as well.  Take the boss you just don’t get, the neighbor who irritates you, the waitress who ignores you. Try synchronizing yourself to be like them and watch what happens!

What other tools are you using? Are they working?  Please leave me a comment and share your experiences!

Betty Lochner is the Owner and President of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.

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