How to build rapport at work

Not sure how to connect with a client or colleague? Learning to build rapport will help.

Rapport is like glue which holds human relationships together. Being in rapport involves making a positive connection. It creates a sense you’re the same page as someone else. Rapport gets things done. And a lack of rapport can be a barrier to effective communication.

Liking someone is a great start to having rapport, but it isn’t essential. Here are some steps you can use to actively build rapport, with anyone anywhere.

Get in step with body language

Research has found that in friendly conversations people subconsciously mirror each other’s movements. It seems that getting along leads into natural synchronisation of body language.

Of course, most people are unaware they’re doing this. But you can consciously create the rapport effect. Start by carefully observing the other person. Study the expressions they use when they speak, how they sit or stand and the gestures they use to make a point.

Next, subtly match your body language to the other person’s. This acts as a subconscious cue that you are in step with them. While it might feel strange at first, this will quickly lead to a more ‘natural’ rapport.

Identify and reuse keywords

Not all words are created equal. People often use keywords – words of particular importance to them.

You can build rapport by identifying and reusing these keywords. First, listen for words emphasised by tone, volume or a pause. Someone might repeat certain words or accompany them with a particular gesture. Once you have identified a few keywords, use those same words yourself. You’ll notice the other person warming up to the conversation at once.

Respond to assumptions

Recognising what people assume but leave unsaid can help you build rapport. For example, a customer may call to tell you that she wants to collect an item but can’t drop by before 5 pm. Her unspoken assumption is that your shop will have closed by then. By picking up on this and offering the solution that the shop stays open until 5.30 pm, you show you recognise her needs.

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