Remember the time you made friends with a new person in your class? You started a conversation and it flowed just like that. Before you knew it, you had a good friend with who you shared secrets and news. You will also recall that there were some people with who you preferred to avoid communication and who seemed disinterested in your presence. What do you think happened then?


The ability to strike up a conversation and remain at the same wavelength of a person is the first step towards building rapport. Rapport forms the basis of communication. When the communication leads to the development of trust between people, we call it rapport building. The ability to stay at the wavelength of the person and the development of a relationship does not occur at a conscious level. You do not identify a person and say, “I am going to be friends with this person.”It is the opportunity for proximity, the presence of similar situations or plain coincidence that leads to the formation of relationships.


There is another way to strike a rapport. We see this on talk shows where the host and the guest enter into a close conversation that leads to the opening of hearts in front of the cameras. A good talk show host is adept at matching the body language of the guest and slowly helping the guest to warm up. At first, the guest may appear formal or even stilted in which case the host will greet and steadily build a rapport with the guest. The presence of an unconscious trust building up between two people and the responsiveness to the experiences of the guest, help the guest to open up. As the show continues, the host displays an awareness of the feelings that the guest has undergone and empathises. Often, the host is able to help the guest come to terms with the experience right there on the show. Watch talk show hosts to understand the effective use of verbal cues and body language that make the guest feel comfortable and start to talk openly.


We can follow a similar form of rapport building in our day to day lives. Whether we are trying to make friends, increase our professional network or clinch a business deal, an understanding of the mechanics of rapport can lead us up the right path. We can actually identify a person and mentally decide, “I’m going to get friendly with this person.”


Let us assume you have taken the initiative and gone out of your comfort zone to establish rapport in an effort to get friendly. Watch out for tell-tale signs of acceptance or rejection as you go along. The first inkling as to whether you are genuinely building rapport is within. Do you have an internal feeling of liking towards the person? As you speak allow yourself to warm up towards the person you are speaking with. What is the person doing, standing with the face and body directed partially away from you? Smile and continue your conversation as you match and mirror the posture. Check whether there are physical impediments that are causing the person to turn away from you. If so, display your pleasure in continuing the conversation. If the person is interested in the conversation, you will notice a change in facial colour or a change in the colour of the neck. Look out for a hint of interest in the eyes as you speak and lead the person by physically closing the space between you and the external environment. This is an effective mode when you and the person you are speaking to are sitting on the same side of the table.


Suppose you are facing each other as you sit on opposite sides of the table. When you are glued into the conversation, you are probably sitting with your torso leaning forward and your facial expressions displaying your interest in the conversation. If the person on the other side is sitting straight and looking straight in your direction, you have the person’s attention. The person is trying to gauge the weight of your words and intent before deciding to consider or reject your proposal. If the person starts to lean forward, you can tell that you are managing to convince while a movement backwards indicates a doubt and further weighing in the mind of the listener.


If you are unsure of yourself and trying to force the conversation, you can rest assured that the person you are speaking with can sense it. This happens due to a faulty understanding of how communication is filtered and processed. When you speak the language of the listener, as in understanding the listener’s expectations before proceeding with your views, half the communication is completed and rapport building starts.


When you went to college, you had an expectation that the professor of a subject would discuss certain aspects of it. If the professor failed to reach the expectation, your interest in the subject waned. Some students may take the lead in directing the professor to clarify the topics where they need help. In the same fashion, when you are at the workplace, your superior may direct the conversation so that you provide information that is relevant. An attempt on your side to draw attention to a point must consider the need of the superior and the relevance of the information to that need. If you made that connection clear, you could expect to be heard. You have in that moment started building rapport with your superior.


When you are in an effort to garner business for your organization, you can expect that rapport building will make the difference between a deal and a non-starter. A great number of business dealings are linked with the capacity to build rapport. Rapport allows you the flexibility to discuss possibilities with your associates that might seem interesting to them in the future. It makes you a more acceptable person for providing financial assistance to.  You find that the people with whom you have built rapport are willing to make time to be with you, listen to you and understand what you have to say. Even if the communication has the purpose of asking a favour, you will find more acceptance of your viewpoint. Since rapport building is based on a feeling of trust, you are inadvertently placing pressure on yourself to retain the sense of trust.


You find yourself willing to go that extra distance to maintain the network with who you have built rapport and that helps to support your efforts. When trust is faithfully met, there is less scope for argument and tension. Even if there is a sudden economic downslide you will find that your network is better able to understand your situation and give you time to return to normal. Rapport breaks the invisible boundaries that come in the way of relationships and cause misunderstandings. When you have taken the time to build rapport, you are more likely to be given the ‘benefit of doubt’ since you have credibility in the eyes of the people you connect with.


Rapport building does not start and end with external business associates. If you have managed to build rapport with your customers, you can expect to be forgiven for the occasional slip-up. Customers are often keen to help a business to see whether there are better ways to manage customer expectations and are willing to advocate your efforts to others. The informal customer network helps you to expand your base of people who utilise your service. Within your organization, your employees and contractors are cued in with the larger business organization and are keen to contribute to it. Putting in the extra effort, tweaking practices to suit individual requirements and considering organizational goals as demanding precedence over personal requirements become the norm. Employees are more willing to refer your workplace as the place to be associated with as opposed to other environments.


At BreakState we help you see how rapport can change your life. It gives credence to us as people and helps us build effective work and personal relationships. Since we are viewed with trust, the work we do and the intent behind it is also viewed in the same manner – with trust.