Whether you’re building a personal friendship or a business partnership, it all starts with rapport. We’ve all heard that word (hopefully), but what the heck does it actually mean, and most importantly, how do we go about acquiring it?
Rapport: noun | rap·port | \ra-por, r-\
Definition: a friendly, harmonious relationship; especially: a relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy.
Okay, in a nutshell we’re talking about an easy going, two-sided relationship. There is give and take. Mutual respect. All the things that you would expect from a normal and healthy relationship. So how do you build that? What is the process from cold calling someone, meeting them at an event or being introduced, to actually having a harmonious relationship? Well, let’s break it down.
1) Find common ground
Who do you know, like and trust more than anyone else? No, not your Mom. Good answer though! Yourself! You know, like and trust yourself more than anyone! So, when you are having a conversation with someone, try to find common ground with them. Find things that you share. Common interests, common backgrounds, common beliefs, common vacation spots, common groups, common friends etc.… This should NOT be construed to mean that you pretend to have things in common in the interest of building rapport, as this would contradict point number 4 on being authentic! If you ask enough questions, and pay close attention, you can always find something in common.
2) Ask questions and actually listen to the answers
People LOVE to talk about themselves. If you want to learn about someone, ask them some questions and then listen. Most people that ask questions listen to the answer looking for a way to respond to it and perhaps even, *gasp*, one-up the persons answer! Don’t do that! Listen intently. It’s been said that you could ask all the questions, say nothing, and the other person would walk away thinking you are a great conversationalist!
3) Be interested vs. interesting
Going along with the above point on asking questions, if your goal is to build rapport and to forge a relationship, don’t try to impress people with your amazing stories of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and running with the bulls of Pamplona. Be especially aware of this if your personality lends itself to talking a lot. This is a constant struggle for me as I love the sound of my own voice and I have some pretty epic stories! However, if you are patient, and take an interest in the other person first, it will be much better for the relationship building, AND I promise you, there will be an opportunity at some point to share your awesome stories!
4) Be authentic
This term seems to be gaining popularity and approaching the status of the catchy phrase from the 90’s, “Thinking Outside the Box”. I think authenticity means different things to different people and therefore I hesitate to give you a hard and fast rule live by. I can only share with you what it means to me. Authenticity for me means being true to my core values. Not pretending to be someone I’m not for the sole interest of gaining business. Letting my personality and my drive show through in all that I do. It does not mean that I bare my soul for everyone to see. It does not mean that I do not act courageous in the face of fear and uncertainty. For a little more in-depth look at this, check out this article called The Authenticity Paradox in the Harvard Business Review
5) Be honest
You don’t need to have a good memory if you are honest with people. This one seems to go on the list of “DUH!”. If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say I don’t know but I’ll find out. If you’re young or are just starting out in your industry, don’t lie and say you’ve been doing it “forever”. No one (important) cares how much money you make or your status. All people want to know is that you are trustworthy, you are going to work hard and you are going to take care of them. Being honest with people builds trust. You can’t build a solid, long-term, mutually beneficial relationship based on lies.
5½ ) Don’t be a dick!
I feel as though this should go without saying but alas, here it is in my post. I did just give it ½ point though. I’m amazed at how many times I overhear a conversation between two new acquaintances where one person feels the need to assert their superiority over the other, whether it be intellectually, politically, economically or with their knowledge of the “best” sports franchise in history. It’s not necessary and it’s not scoring you any points. Stop it.
So there you have it! 5½ tips to building relationships and rapport. Obviously this is a very in depth subject that you will constantly need to be working on but these should get you going. If you have any other tips that have worked for you that you'd like to share with folks, feel free to leave them in the comments below! Happy rapport building!