“Rapport is fundamental to success in communication” by Sheila Singam, Master NLP Trainer
I like watching people. It’s great practice for sharpening my observation skills and gives me valuable clues about them. Whenever I watch a group of people, for example, I can instantly tell which ones in the group are in rapport with each other and which ones are not.
Try it the next time you are out at the mall or at a restaurant or party. Pick a group and observe the physiology of the various people in the group. As they get into rapport with one another, you will find them shifting their posture until they are standing in a similar way, with a similar stance, and they will begin to use similar gestures when talking. You’ll even find their facial expressions becoming alike!
One of the most telling ways to gauge if people are in rapport with one another is to watch their physiology. This is a great skill to have when you are doing a presentation, conducting a meeting or giving a speech to influence others. The ones who are in rapport with you are most likely to be the ones whose physiology matches yours.
So what is rapport?
The word stems from the old French word rapporter, which means to carry something back and, in the sense of how people relate to each other, means that what one person sends out the other sends back. This could include values, beliefs, knowledge, attitudes, behaviours and other elements. In fact, at the deepest level, rapport is a recognition of and a willingness to share values with others.
Rapport is fundamental to success in communicating with others. When someone is in rapport with you, you’re more likely to be able to influence them and achieve your desired communication outcome.
A classic example is in sales. When your client is not in rapport with you, it is much harder to convince her of the benefits of your product or service and you will find it difficult to close the sale. However, if you have taken the time to build rapport with her, you will find it easier to influence a buying decision.
Extrapolating this to an organisational level, companies that emphasise rapport skills amongst their employees will find that there is higher productivity from the workforce. People who are in rapport with each other and with their company will be the ones who stay on, resulting in lower turnover of staff.
You’ve probably realised on more than one occasion that you’ve naturally gone into rapport with someone without realising it. It could be that an unconscious level, you’ve both recognised shared values that have drawn you together. I’ve experienced that many times. I go to a party and end up chatting the night away with someone as if I have known them all my life! That’s rapport.
However, there have also been occasions when I’ve deliberately used my skills to get into rapport with someone in order to have deeper and more effective communication.
Can you really do that?
Next: How to build rapport to achieve your communication results.