Put simply, rapport is people’s ability to relate, be empathetic towards each other’s feelings and communicate well.
We all know people who appear to be completely comfortable striking up new relationships, and others who struggle to find areas in common or other ways of building rapport.
For some, this is a gift, but this doesn’t mean you can’t treat it like any other skill that you can improve upon.
Rapport is a key part of being assertive at work, and is covered in our assertiveness courses.
The Importance of Building Rapport
So why would you be interested in building rapport in the first place?
Well, when you build rapport, you simultaneously establish trust. You can increase your influence at work and make your colleagues and bosses more receptive to your business ideas.
The more you build rapport at work, the more loyalty you will inspire, and the more enjoyable your job will be for you and everyone else you interact with.
Building rapport is particularly important for managers trying to build the motivation of their team. If you trust someone, you will naturally want to work hard for them.
For more on how building rapport can help your career, check out our communication and assertiveness statistics here!
Let’s look at eight easy ways to build rapport at work.
Eight Ways to Start Building Rapport
Building rapport doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might imagine it to be.
1. Find out what you have in common.
Think of someone you’re trying to build a relationship with. Maybe you both went to the same school or enjoy the same activities.
You can probably find something in common with anyone if you try hard enough.
The problem is that we often don’t take the time to truly listen. Instead, we think about what we want to say next, and we often fail to find that common ground.
2. Talk about your family life.
Moving on to discussing family life is a fantastic way of taking a strictly business relationship to the next level.
Maybe you have children of the same age, or you both have parents with the same hobbies?
If this is the case, you will be able to empathise with each other’s daily challenges and triumphs, both at work and home.
Rapport building is about more than just work! Building relationships is an important part of life as well as business.
3. Find out what they hate or are afraid of.
This may be a negative approach, but a shared negative experience often brings people together as it gives them things in common.
Establishing that you have a shared fear or weak point can be even better for building rapport than having something in common that you both like.
This can help you build a good rapport and a harmonious relationship with the people you work with.
4. See if you have shared goals.
We often have passions and goals that we feel we can’t share with other people.
Finding common dreams creates a strong bond.
This is even better if your shared goals are something niche or quirky, like wanting to break a silly world record, discover the meaning of weird words or plans to travel somewhere out of the ordinary.
5. Copy their body language.
Research has shown that we respond better when someone acts like us.
Mirroring body language is a powerful psychological tool for bonding with someone.
This doesn’t mean that you need to copy their every move, just look for things like the way they sit and whether they gesture while talking.
Maintain eye contact in a way that seems to make them relax, rather than overdoing it.
This is also a key skill to master to interview well, in addition to helping develop rapport!
6. Talk about shared hobbies and skills.
We all love to talk about our hobbies, particularly when they are things that not everyone is interested in.
Even if you don’t have exactly the same interests, try and search for common ground that lets you build rapport naturally. You may even end up doing these activities together.
7. Discuss food likes and dislikes.
What we eat is another subject that we all love to talk about when connecting with others.
In many cultures, people connect during meals, and food is an important part of socialising.
See if you manage to increase rapport by asking about their favourite recipes and telling them yours.
8. Enjoy talking about things that make you feel awkward or unique.
We all have things that we don’t usually tell people until we develop a lot of trust.
This could be considered oversharing if it’s too soon in the relationship, but it can build rapport once the timing is right.
For example, you can be honest about how you feel really awkward in meetings or how you laugh at things that no one else seems to find funny.
Being vulnerable is a powerful thing, but check the other person’s reaction to see if they can really relate. If they do, that’s great – you’ve built an excellent rapport.
Having good rapport will also help you to increase and understand your workplace power!
Five Mistakes When Trying To Build Rapport
Conversely, there are some things that many people think create rapport when that’s not the case.
1. Showing interest in a part of their life that doesn’t really interest you.
Pretending to be interested in the same things as your conversation partner isn’t a good strategy.
If you try to fake interest, they will almost certainly notice this and realise you’re not being honest.
The best thing would be to dig deeper and find something you actually have in common.
2. Going over the top.
Pretending to be awfully excited about their latest adventures when you have no genuine interest in them is something that will be spotted fairly easily.
Again, it all comes down to authenticity. You can’t fake enthusiasm, or you’ll come across as manipulative and disingenuous.
3. Trying to find too many points in common.
It is better to find a few natural connections that come up in your conversations than try to cram in as many as you can.
Pretty much anyone will find it weird if you keep trying to force the issue to discover more and more common ground. Your effort of building rapport should feel completely natural.
4. Talking too much about yourself.
Keeping the conversation centred on you won’t give the other person enough of an opportunity to share their side of things or even answer you.
You can’t start building rapport and achieve a genuine connection until you are ready to make this a truly two-way conversation.
Remember that listening to the other person, and perfecting your listening skills, is a huge factor in learning how to connect them.
5. Making things up.
You can’t just pretend to have things in common either or find common ground where none exists. If there is no genuine connection, you can’t force things.
Instead of making up shared interests or situations, you should learn to back off.
Next time you see them, try again. It’s much more likely to work.
If you are starting to see how important rapport can be, check out our guide here on creating a personal development plan, and include building rapport as a key factor!
Can Rapport Be Lost?
No matter how hard you work at building rapport, it can be lost pretty easily if you make a wrong move.
One of the most obvious ways is if you are caught lying to them or talking about them behind their back.
Another, more likely possibility is that the relationship slowly gets eroded over time due to a lack of contact or poor communication. Even a strong sense of rapport with someone else may not last long once you are no longer talking to them every relatively frequently.
Good rapport is an ongoing process. It is not a ‘one and done’ thing.
Re-Building Lost Rapport
So, what should you do if the rapport you have with someone has been lost?
The good news is that you can easily recover the bond that has been broken.
Just go back to what we looked at earlier in terms of the tips to build rapport in the first place.
Do the right things to re-establish your credibility and recover the trust that has been lost. You should find that you can start connecting with them once again.
Perhaps the fastest way to rebuild your relationship is by creating shared experiences. When you do things together, it helps you to build stronger, longer-lasting bonds.
Motivational speaker Tony Robbins calls rapport the “ability to enter someone else’s world” and “have a strong common bond”, so consider how you could do this.
Don’t just limit yourself to conversations when you can find other ways to connect, like having lunch together somewhere memorable or enjoying their company while you walk home.
Recovering Rapport When Trust Has Broken Down
If rapport has broken down because of a break-down in trust, you’ll need to take a different approach.
In this case, you will need to tackle the issue head-on before you can hope to re-establish the bond.
Sit down and talk the issue through. You can’t brush it under the carpet if you want to re-establish the connection.
We have looked at how to build rapport in the right way and some of the common errors people fall into when attempting to do it.
Perhaps the best single piece of advice when you want to create rapport is to be genuine and honest at all times.
Building rapport with someone should be a positive experience that enhances their day and your day.
For more on this topic, read our assertiveness tips for managers here!