HOW to Build Rapport and WHY it Matters

I have been reading widely lately and finding a common theme in many of these books: human beings are hard-wired for connecting. Which could just as easily be translated as “if you’re human, you need to build rapport”.

Isn’t that just for people in business, you ask? Well, no.

The dictionary defines rapport as a connection, especially harmonious or sympathetic.

noun

relation; connection, especially harmonious or sympathetic relation: a teacher trying to establish close rapport with students.

 

Which sounds like something we all need to do in order to feel a sense of belonging. We no longer need the group for physical survival and safety reasons, but being a member of the tribe fulfills emotional and psychological needs too.

And when we join a group, we tend to flock together with group members similar to us. How can we know when we’ve found the right flock?

Rapport.

All well and good if you’re one of those extroverts who LOVES meeting new people, but what about our quieter friends who find meeting new people extremely difficult? How can they build rapport with new people without feeling like they’ve been turned inside out and stripped raw?

Here’s the good part about finding your flock, making a connection, or building rapport – it’s a give and take, but it works better when you give more and take less. Which is a whole lot easier for the quieter folks.

How Do You Build Rapport?

I asked my friend and colleague who is a networking strategist, Lori Saitz of Zen Rabbit, HOW to build rapport with a new connection. She specializes in working with quieter people who find networking and making those connections particularly difficult. Lori’s tip for connecting with someone new is to ask, “What are you most excited to be working on right now?”

Great question! Most people can find something either in their personal or professional life that they’re keen to share with someone else. Even if they really don’t have anything particularly exciting to share, you’ve asked them what they’re most excited about, and opened the door to conversation that is much more interesting than “What do you do?”. (That may only be a Washington, DC thing, although it’s so ubiquitous that I can’t imagine what people ask in other cities. Anyone want to share?)

Online educational provider Lynda.com has a rapport building course that suggests similar questions to ask of someone new: What’s your favorite part of …?  What do you like most about …?

The Lynda.com instructor also wanted you to have something to share as well as a question to ask. Because it’s about connecting, remember? It’s not an interview.

Making Connections By Talking About the Weather?

Both Lori and Lynda.com were quick to point out that these questions are much more interesting than simply talking about the weather, and what you do for a living. I agree. But . . . I also think that talking about the weather CAN be a good way to make a connection.

I think of rapport building as beginning by finding common ground (the weather!), but deepening that connection by learning more details about another person and continuing to explore the ways in which you are similar, and different. Admittedly I am one of those curious extroverts who asks lots of questions and files away the answers to help me build a picture of the person I am getting to know.

When the weather is transitioning seasonally, talking about that can give you some insight into what sorts of activities this person enjoys, which temperatures make them feel the most comfortable, maybe even where they grew up. And if the weather is particularly fine, you may even find that people’s spirits are buoyed by that and they might be more willing to open up to other questions.

Or maybe I’m just overly affected by light and temperature and/or spent too much time in England!

Seriously though, building rapport with another person doesn’t have to be difficult. Think about what you might like to be asked and ask that. One of my favorites is “Where are you going on your next vacation?” Or, “What are you reading right now?” The answers will give you a surprising amount of insight and will certainly start an interesting conversation.

And that’s the key. Because connection begins with conversation. And success in life comes from connection.