Rapport – The Key to Building Trust


In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, the way in which you interact with others has a major bearing on your success. Consequently, your ability to build a good rapport with the other person is a prerequisite for effective communication, whether in our personal lives, in our professional lives … anywhere and with anyone. Whether you want to network, influence, manage or lead people, connect rapidly with a wide range of people, communicate magically, build solid professional and personal relationships, help others improve performance and increase success, handle conflict, increase sales, get a promotion, talk your way into things or out of things, the ability to build rapport is vital.

Without it, you are unlikely to achieve willing agreement to what you want. People who have excellent rapport with others create harmonious relationships based on trust and understanding of mutual needs. When people are communicating in rapport they find it easy to be understood and they believe their concerns are highly regarded by the other person. We all have different maps of reality – ways in which we perceive the world – and “we can only really trust people who look at the world the way we do. If we feel understood, we give people our trust and open up to them more easily”.

With rapport comes influence. And with influence (when used with integrity) comes great success. To influence you have to be able to appreciate and understand the other person’s standpoint. And these work both ways: I cannot influence you without being open to influence myself. So rapport is an extremely important thing to cultivate with the people you’re working with, partnering with, or selling products/services to. There are times when you meet someone, instantly like them, and say to yourself, “We’re a lot alike”. We have all felt this, but do you know how to actually create it?

What is Rapport?
There are several misconceptions about rapport and the one that probably hinders people the most is thinking about rapport as a thing instead of considering it as a process. Furthermore, there’s a common misunderstanding that rapport is all about getting the other person to like you. While that is often a nice effect of having rapport, it is not the core of rapport at all. Your ability to build rapport is one of the hardest skills to objectively analyze. What is it and how do you do it?

Rapport means you demonstrate understanding of the other person’s model of the world. It has nothing to do with the other person liking you (at first). It is one of the most important features or characteristics of unconscious human interaction. It is commonality of perspective: being “in sync” with, or being “on the same wavelength” as the person with whom you are talking. It is essentially meeting individuals in their model of the world. It’s the ability to go fully from your map of the world to his or her map of the world.

Rapport is achieved when two people can see each other’s viewpoint, appreciate each other’s feelings, and be on the same wavelength. It starts with acceptance of the other person’s point of view, their state and their style of communication. Having rapport does not mean that you have to agree, but that you understand where the other person or people are coming from. In other words, you are responsive to what another is saying. And when you are in rapport something magical happens. You and others feel listened to and heard. At an unconscious level, there is a comfortable feeling of “This person thinks like I do, I can relax. I am safe”. There is a connection between the two of us”.

Rapport as a Philosophy
Having rapport as a foundation for the relationship means that when there are issues to discuss, you already have a culture in place that makes it easier to talk them through and thus to prevent issues from developing into complaints, objections or problems. Rapport works best when it is a philosophy – a way of dealing with people and a way of doing business at all times – in contrast to doing rapport as a technique in a sales meeting or when there is a problem.

True rapport creates an atmosphere of mutual confidence and trust. It is a genuine effort to help another person minimize their perceived difference between themself and yourself. If you are using rapport as a tactic to manipulate another to your way of thinking, at some level they instinctively know it and they will not respond positively. However, if you have mastered the art of rapport and your intention is to hear and be heard, to achieve win-win solutions or create genuine business friendships, you will become powerful and trusted.

Most people like people who are like themselves
Success in business can be rooted from being able to get along well with people. It is rare for two human beings to be together very long before seeking to discover similarities about themselves. People swarm, flock and group together by type, background, interests, beliefs, gender, work and so on. According to G Richard Shell and Mario Moussa, studies showed that the most casual relationships at work depend on the “surface similarity” between people – such things as beliefs, gender, common experience, shared background or group memberships that people use to break the ice and establish rapport.

Success at building rapport often depends on minute attention to social clues such as acknowledging people, holding doors and so on. A little rudeness directed at someone you don’t know well can be costly whereas a little kindness can be remembered for years. In building rapport, we need to remember these four important aspects: commonalities, connectivity, communication and collaboration. Understanding each other is searching for things that you have in common and are mutually similar.

Once you draw out commonalities, start creating the connection or bond by disclosing yourself especially when teamwork is needed to carry out a task. As we begin to experience a powerful common bond, so too does rapport begin. Mutual interests, ideas, values and beliefs are the wrap and weft of social interaction. This can be achieved by tactfully allowing the other party to see the common ground in your personality or point of view. Of course, communication must be constant and open both verbal and non-verbal.

What is the key to building true rapport?
The key to develop true rapport is to go beyond superficial techniques such as “matching” others’ behaviours, posture and movements. True or authentic rapport develops when you have a genuine interest in the person, are willing to experience the world through their perspective and respond to them based on that. The main distinction is that it is not just about being interested in what they are saying. Being interested in the content of the conversation will bring you a level of rapport, being interested in the person will take you to a different and far more powerful level. When talking with anyone you want to build a relationship with, give them 101% of your attention and genuinely care about them when you speak. Be in the Present Moment.

Copyright 2010 by Karl Smith
This article may be copied or republished with the following credit:
“By Karl Smith, Author: Beyond The Business Handshake: Dare To Build High-Trust Business Relationships” Cape Town, South Africa. +27 (0) 71 444 2210 karl@businessnetworkingsouthafrica.co.za www.businessnetworkingsouthafrica.co.za

PS: Don’t Keep Karl A Secret! Book Karl for in-company training or to speak at your next conference

Share on Social Media

Leave a comment