Merriam-Webster defines rapport as a friendly, harmonious relationship. It is important to build these relationships in work and in life.
When you start a new job and want to get off on the right foot with colleagues. When you join a new lacrosse team or theatrical ensemble. When you start taking a new class and want to get along with your classmates.
Rapport-building is an incredibly useful skill. So today, we are going to talk about how to build rapport.
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What Is Rapport and Why Does Building Rapport Matter?
One’s ability to build rapport is their ability to form strong, functional relationships. This skill can benefit you in every part of life! Even if you’re a master of ceremonies or not.
Building rapport with people will help them trust you. They will be more likely to stick their neck out for you because they value your relationship.
Building rapport pays off
For example, your boss assigns you a terribly unwieldy task. It’s not built for one person to do. Because you’ve built mutual trust with colleagues, however, a group of them volunteer to help.
Or perhaps you are looking for someone to write you a recommendation.
Luckily, you have built personal relationships with the people who went to the same college as you. Upon asking, all of them are more than willing to write you a glowing recommendation.
Rapport building means establishing great relationships
Taking time to establish rapport means investing in your community. As you use your communication skills to build rapport, you are building relationships.
For example, you are on the same sports team as someone from class whom you’ve never met. You see this as an opportunity to make a new friend in both spheres.
You use your interpersonal skills to strike up conversation. The next thing you know, you have a strong relationship. And both of you feel a stronger sense of community!
With that, let’s dive into some real ways to build rapport!
#1: Use Your Senses
Sight, taste, and sound can be excellent guides when building rapport.
Your goal is to find common ground with a person. So, go into observer mode:
What do they look like? What do they wear? What do you see them doing?
- Maybe they have a jeans jacket that reminds you of one your dad used to wear.
- Maybe you always see them doing crossword puzzles, which is your favorite pastime.
What foods do you see them eating? Maybe you share some favorites.
- People love to bond over food – it can even lead to really meaningful conversations.
- Show genuine interest in what they like.
When you listen to them, what do you hear? Actively listen and show that you are genuinely interested in their hobbies.
- Where do your opinions mesh?
- Are you both Red Sox fans?
- Do you see their facial expressions light up when Ariana Grande comes on?
#2: Read the Room
Yes, you want to build rapport with this person. But what do they need from you right now?
Check their body language.
- Are their hands in front of their chest, closed off?
- Head tilted down, deeply focused on what they are reading?
- Actively engaged in a conversation with someone else, not wanting to be interrupted?
- Twiddling their thumbs uncomfortably, looking for someone to talk to?
To establish rapport, you must consider the other person’s perspective, the other person’s needs. By paying attention to them, you’ll know if it’s the right time to approach.
Think about it.
How would you feel if someone interrupted a fascinating conversation just to strike up small talk? Chances are, you wouldn’t feel too inspired to build a connection with them.
#3: Identify Commonalities
Finding common ground is the most important tool in rapport building. You need to connect on a personal level.
Ask rapport building questions to identify points of mutual understanding. At the same time, don’t get too personal too quickly.
Wanting to build rapport with a colleague? Try asking:
- What is your favorite part about working here?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
- What inspires you to do this work?
Want to build strong relationships with alumni in the same city as you?
First of all, attend alumni events! You don’t need to act as event emcee by any means. But by attending, you can ask questions like:
- What is your favorite memory from school?
- I never ran into you during my time there! What did you study? What activities did you participate in?
- What were your favorite classes? Which professor had the greatest impact on you?
If you are in the same space as someone, chances are you have something in common.
Play Sherlock Holmes and find out what it is!
#4: It’s All About Body Language
It can be hard to know what we look like when we’re not staring in a mirror.
A major part of effective communication skills is considering what the other person sees.
You know you’re approachable – but they need to know it!
Smile, make eye contact, position your body toward them, and have good posture. Exude openness and welcoming energy. You’ll start to build rapport before you even exchange words.
#5: Make Some Memories
Want to know how to build rapport?
Create memorable moments with people. The greatest way to bond with someone is through a shared experience.
Trust me, as a corporate emcee who loves to make people laugh, I know. That shared experience could be amazing or really hard!
It’s actually not uncommon to build deeper connections during challenging times.
Difficult times invite deeper conversations, which are perfect fodder for building rapport.
Did you have a terrible customer experience on the job? The silver lining is the coworker who was there with you.
It was frustrating in the moment, but the two of you will be laughing before you know it!
Create opportunities for fun memories, too
Are you in charge of designing professional development opportunities for your team? Take this as an opportunity to build rapport.
Good rapport means better working relationships. So, get creative!
Lectures and boxed lunches are boring. Inject some fun into the formula and see how employee engagement rises. Need some ideas?
- Take the staff on a picnic!
- Divide into groups and give each group a basket of rapport building questions to ask each other.
- Be sure to throw some silly questions into the mix! We need to know everyone’s favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor.
- Managing people can make you feel isolated from the staff. Great leaders are highly skilled at connecting with others.
- Get vulnerable and share an embarrassing personal experience that shows your staff you’re human too!
- It’ll get everyone laughing and make them more comfortable with you.
- Focused on increasing sales?
- Design a silly game that actually helps staff develop their skills.
- Include fun prizes, props, and ridiculous team names to keep things lighthearted
Bonus: Back to Basics: What is Event Management?
#6: Stay Humble
Sometimes you build rapport… then lose it. Maybe you made a mistake and crossed a line. Perhaps you broke someone’s trust. But you are committed to rebuilding that rapport.
This person may not feel quite ready to build trust with you again. Respect that and give them space. Know that this might take a long time. They also may never feel ready to build rapport like that with you again.
Apologize and reflect
Take time to reflect on where your actions could have been more thoughtful. Make a genuine apology that shows you’ve learned. You know what you need to improve on.
Use what you’ve learned
Take what you learned in this experience and apply it to other relationships. Life is not about never making mistakes. It’s about learning from those mistakes and improving.
#7: Be Open to New Perspectives
It’s easy enough to build rapport with people who are very similar to us. But most people are quite different.
So, how do you build great relationships when the common ground is less obvious?
Listen to their story
People often think they know more about others than they actually do.
Ask open ended questions. The person will end up telling stories they never thought they’d tell. You’ll learn things about them that surprise you!
Good rapport is often found in a common bond.
As you listen to this person, listen for points of similarity.
- Do you both have daughters?
- Did you both study abroad in South America?
- Do you both care for an ailing parent?
Your mindset is everything. Go into the conversation expecting to find similarities. This will get you further than focusing on the distance between you.
That being said, differences are okay! A major part of building rapport is making space for and respecting those differences.
Respectful debate can inspire your next conversation.
#8: Break Down Barriers
Here’s an important tip on how to build rapport: take some time to focus on topics outside of the office. Demonstrate that you care about this person beyond their productivity.
Of course, there is balance to be struck here.
We don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable. They don’t need to share anything they don’t want to. But just by showing interest in their lives, you are doing the work.
Begin each meeting by checking in on your staff.
How are they feeling today? Is there anything going on that they want to share with you? Did they have a good weekend?
It can be jarring to dive headfirst into a meeting, full steam ahead. Especially if it’s a Monday, or the first meeting of the day. Remember that these are human beings.
#9: Follow Up
Here’s the super important part – remember what people tell you. Active listening may be a new skill for you, but it is worth developing!
Building rapport means being sincere and authentic.
Did your colleague tell you they were going to their daughter’s football game last weekend? Ask about it on Monday!
Did they mention that their parent is in the hospital? Ask how they are doing. It doesn’t take much time, but it will mean the world to them.
Prove that you care about what people say.
Let’s Review the Basics of Building Rapport:
#1: Use your senses.
#2: Read the room.
#3: Identify commonalities.
#4: It’s all about body language.
#5: Make some memories.
#6: Stay humble.
#7: Be open to new perspectives.
#8: Break down barriers.
#9: Follow up.
If you apply these tips, you will see your relationships strengthen and skyrocket. You can do this!
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Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetings, special events, gala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.