Tuning Into the Importance of Rapport
Rapport is like money. You only realise you have a problem when you haven’t got enough of it. Rapport is not a technique that you turn on and off at will. It should flow constantly between people. Rule one of communication: establish rapport before expecting anyone to listen to you. And this is the case with anybody and any situation, whether with a teacher, pupil, spouse, friend, waitress, taxi-driver, coach, doctor, therapist, or business executive.
Identifying why rapport is a big deal
The word rapport derives from the French verb rapporter, translated as ‘to return or bring back’. The English dictionary definition is “a sympathetic relationship or understanding.” It’s about making a two-way connection. You know you’ve made such a connection when you experience a genuine sense of trust and respect with another person, when you engage comfortably with someone no matter however different they are to you, and when you know that you are listening and being listened to.
While you may like to spend your time with other people who are just like you, the real world is full of a wonderful variety of different types of people with special skills, opinions, and backgrounds. Rapport is the key to success and influence in both your personal and professional life. It’s about appreciating and working with differences. Rapport makes getting things done much easier. It means you can provide good customer service to others and enjoy being on the receiving end of it, too. Ultimately, it preserves your time, money, and energy. What a great stress-free way to live!
There’s no magic pill to learn rapport. It’s something you learn intuitively — otherwise robots and aliens would have the leading edge on us humans. So, in order for you to understand how you personally build rapport and what is important to you in different relationships, check out these comparisons.
1. First think for a moment about someone you have rapport with. What signals do you send out to them and receive back that allow you to know that you’re on the same wavelength? How do you create and maintain that rapport?
2. Now, as a contrast, think for a moment about someone you do not have rapport with, but would like to. What signals do you send out to them and receive back that allow you to know that you’re not on the same wavelength? What gets in the way of creating and maintaining rapport with that person?
3. Based on your experience with the first person, what might you do differently in your behaviour with the second person that can help you build a stronger relationship?
You might think that the first person (the one you have rapport with) is naturally easy to get on with and the second (the one you don’t yet share any rapport with) is just a difficult person. Yet, by being more flexible in your behaviour or thoughts about the second person, you may well find that you can build rapport with them through some simple stages. It may be that you need to take more time to get to know them and what’s important to them rather than expecting them to adapt to you and your style.
Picking out people to build rapport with
By now you may be getting curious about people around you — those you work with, share a home with, or spend time socialising with. There may be some key individuals that you’d like to get to know better. It could be the manager of a project or your new partner’s family. Perhaps the bank manager is somebody you’d like to influence!
Here’s a checklist to fill out for anyone you’d like to have better rapport with. Writing down your responses will make you stop and think — plus, you can come back to revisit the list at a future date. Good relationships take serious investment — time to build and nurture. You’ll see that the questions require you to think about your needs and also about the other person. Rapport is a two-way street.
- What is your relationship to this person?
- Specifically, how would you like your relationship with this person to change?
- What impact would this have on you?
- What impact would it have on the other person?
- Is it worth investing time and energy?
- What pressures does this person face?
- What is most important to them right now?
- Who do you know that you could talk to who has successfully built rapport with this person? And what can you learn from them?
- What other help can you get to build rapport?
- What ideas do you have now in moving this relationship forward?
- What is the first step?