The dictionary defines rapport as “relation characterised by harmony, conformity, accord, or affinity.”
When you have rapport with someone, it’s that feeling of flow, ease and comfort in a conversation when there is mutual liking and trust. You will recognise a lack of rapport when you encounter those conversations that feel forced, uncomfortable and rigid. Once you’ve established rapport with a person, he or she is much more likely to be open with you and share information, buy your product, recommend you to others, or support your ideas. Consider rapport as the foundation to and referral partnership.
So while building rapport is intuitive and natural to some people, it is an important skill that anyone can learn.
Here are some tips for building rapport.
Be Real. Fist and foremost, be genuine. If you’re not, the person will know. So be sincere in what you say; don’t make up an interest in something just to create rapport.
Establish artificial time constraints. Nobody wants to feel trapped in an awkward conversation with a stranger, so try beginning the conversation with something along the lines of “I’m on my way out but before I left I wanted to ask you…” When the other person knows that there is an end in sight that is close, and you’re not the person talking to them the rest of the event/flight/afternoon, then they can relax and engage with you more comfortably.
Ask good, open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are ones that don’t require a simple yes or no answer. People love to talk about themselves. Asking open-ended questions and paying attention to the answers helps you learn more about the other person and shows that you have a genuine interest in them. The key is in your follow-up. LISTEN and respond according to what they said. This is how they’ll know you are truly catching their details.
Find Common Ground. When you meet someone new, do your best to find something you have in common. Use open-ended questions to discover some personal information about the person: perhaps you attended the same school or university, have the same favourite vacation spot, grew up in the same city, know the same people, or root for the same sports team.
Be Empathic. Empathy is about understanding other people by seeing things from their perspective, and recognising their emotions. Once you achieve this, it’s easier to get “on their level.”
Ask For Help. When a request is small (this is key), we naturally feel a connection to those who ask us for help. Think for a moment about the times in your life when you have either sought assistance or been asked to provide it. When the request is simple, of limited duration, and non-threatening, we are more inclined to accommodate the request. As human beings, we are biologically conditioned to accommodate requests for assistance.
Smile. Smiling is the most powerful nonverbal technique to let someone know you are non-threatening, friendly and trustworthy. Smiling makes you approachable.