How to establish rapport

Rapport - an harmonious relationship of trust and confidence - is the essential ingredient in any meaningful communication. Where rapport does not exist, most efforts to communicate effectively will be in vain. Managers, therefore, need to be skilled in establishing rapport with individuals or groups. Although there is no single technique for building rapport, some general principles need to be observed...

1. Know what outcomes you want.

All behaviour is outcome-related - people act as they do to get what they want. So, before entering into conversation or a meeting, you need to know what you want, and you’ll need the flexibility to adopt the appropriate behaviours to achieve that outcome by building confidence and trust in your colleagues.

2. Encourage conversation.

In the early stages of most conversations, get-togethers, or meetings, some people can be reluctant starters. The best approach is to get them talking - the topic or content is not important (though we do know that most people like talking about themselves). Talk and laughter help to establish a breathing pattern that helps to relax people, making them feel more at ease in the situation. So that’s your initial agenda: maintain eye contact, listen attentively, nod intermittently to match the tempo of the other person’s voice, and demonstrate your interest with an occasional ‘a-hum’ or ‘a-ha’ to match voice tone. Your encouraging behaviour will be appreciated.

3. Listen and observe.

Most meaning is transmitted non-verbally - more than 80 per cent, according to some experts. We are particularly aware of incongruence - that is, when there is a conflict between what people say and what their body language communicates. That incongruence could alert you to the fact that something is wrong. You may decide to pursue that uncertainty further by asking appropriate questions.

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