Rapport is essential in creating an environment of trust. How do you respect and appreciate another person’s views while still maintaining your own integrity? How can you sharpen your skills to build rapport with anyone? To understand strategies for building rapport we need look at commonalities that occur when people have a rapport and when they do not.
During the face-to-face communication process, three things are taking place simultaneously.
First, words are being spoken. Although you may believe that your words are the most important part in building rapport, typically they are not. In fact, research shows that words are the least effective part of the communication process.
Second, voice and tonality are being heard. Actors focus on honing their voice and tonality skills by practicing a dozen different ways to say the word “no.” We unconsciously have this ability, but rarely do we consciously focus on how our voice and tonality are spoken in casual conversation.
Third, body language is being spoken. This is by far the most effective form of building rapport, because the listener is constantly unconsciously reading your body language to pick up any non-verbal clues in your communication.
Effective communication flows when people are in rapport—their words, voice, tonality and body language tend to mirror each other. Although words can build or destroy a conversation, the words you say do not have as much impact as the rest of the message you are sending. What has the most impact is tonality and body language. To build rapport you must have some level of mirroring and matching of voice, tonality and body language.
Cross Over Mirroring
Matching eye contact is probably the most common and often taught form of building rapport in this country. From childhood we are taught to look someone in the eye when speaking to them. However, we are rarely taught to match gestures, postures, voice tonality, pitch and speed. Often times this type of matching is considered taboo because it is viewed as mimicking. The art of matching is not mimicry, you can use a subtle technique called cross over mirroring. For example, if the other person creates wild arm movements, you can mirror with small hand movements. If the other person shifts their body to one side, you can shift your head to one side.
Another successful way to gain rapport is voice matching—matching the other person’s speed, tone, pitch, rhythm and volume of their speech. Think of this as a vocal dance and you are leading. As a financial adviser and business development consultant/coach who has spent 15 years on the phone, I know how effective this strategy is! When people are like each other, they tend to like each other more, and people work with those they like.
There are only two possible limitations to building rapport—your ability to perceive other peoples words, voices, tonalities and body language; and your ability to do the mirroring and matching.
If this blog post has resonated with you and you want to learn how to build better rapport, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free coaching consultation.
Daniel C. Finley
St. Paul, Minn.