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building rapport

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… from our top ten tips podcast… covering a wide range of management and personal development topics… new episodes weekly.
  1. Think before you enter the conversation

    This simply means if you are going into a conversation or some kind of interaction, just give yourself 10, 20 seconds thinking time about the other person or group that you’re going to be talking with. What do you already know, what might they be interested in? What are their key issues? And if you’ve already had time with them before, what is their style of interaction? Give yourself a heads-up so that you don’t go in cold, but you go in with an intention and an awareness of building rapport.

  2. choose the best currency

    Currency is a metaphor for how we interact with each other. If you were going on holiday to France, you would take euros because that’s the currency that the French would use. If you’re listening to this in the UK our own currency is pounds Sterling. So why wouldn’t you take pound Sterling for a fortnight’s holiday in France? And the answer is pretty obvious. You wouldn’t get very far and you wouldn’t be very popular. In fact, you probably wouldn’t buy very much because it will be refused. And that’s the idea of currencies in terms of human interactions.

    We all have our own currency. We have our preferences for how we interact: our style, tone, pace, the specific language we use are all preferences that we each have. And they may not be the same preferences for the people we’re chatting to. My whole point here is that to be good at rapport, it’s helpful to be able to use the other person’s currencies, their preferences, rather than your own.

  3. Use cues and clues

    In any conversation, the other person will tell you things about themselves.  Obviously there’ll be some very specific things. They’re answering questions and they’ll give you specific answers, but they’ll give you some idea about what their  currency is, what their background is, what their preferences are. And these cues and clues can be absorbed by you then filed away in your mental note book and used later on in that conversation or later conversations.

    So if somebody has said something that you then specifically refer to later, or you use a particular turn of phrase that they’ve used, it does two things for them. Firstly, it shows that you are really good at listening intently to what they’re saying, and that you have good recall.

    Secondly, it shows that you have some degree of interest in them. Some consideration for them as a person to be able to play back to them. So it makes them feel valued that you have heard and are able to recall and replay things that matter to them. And that’s an essential part of rapport building.

  4. Listen actively

    We don’t just listen to people. We have a way of listening that makes a difference to the other person. It’s not just listening, it’s listening actively. This includes perhaps one or two obvious things like looking at the other person and providing nonverbal cues to show that you’re listening such as nodding, it’s also about turning your whole body to the person speaking so that you are fully attentive to that person. And I like the phrase paying attention.  When you’re listening, you should be paying attention, which means you’re investing in them.

  5. Recap

    The very best way of showing that you’re listening is to be able to recap what they’ve been saying. All the other clues that I’ve given you about active listening, nodding, looking at the person they can be learned, and can we give an off  signals, so that even if you are not listening, you can make it look as though you’re listening. But you can’t possibly recap what the other person has been saying unless you’ve been listening. So the best proof to the other person that you are listening to them is to recap what they’ve been saying.

  6. Acknowledge and build

    When somebody is chatting to you and they are offering an idea, then acknowledge what they’re saying. And the second part is build. It’s really helpful to be able to build on what they have been saying. So for example, you can say that’s interesting, or I agree – that would be an acknowledgement. And, (and use the word and), and one way that would work in my company…or one of the things I can help with that is…, and that’s a build, it takes their idea or their offering and builds on it. It adds to it.

  7. Ask questions

    You invite the other person to say what they want to say, and the best way of inviting them to do that is to ask a question.  It doesn’t have to be a deeper probing question. It can just be an invitation to get a response or a comment on the whole. People value being given the opportunity to offer their point of view. So you asking questions, invites the other person into the conversation.

  8. Make sure you respond to the comments they make

    They may offer statements. And the danger with somebody just talking in statements is it makes the listener rather passive. They’re not invited in. So if somebody is talking to you in statements, Make sure it becomes two way by offering a response to their statements.

    You can respond to statements. You don’t have to wait for a question and as long as you don’t interrupt or change direction and using the aknowledge and build approach, you’ll be able to engage satisfactorily with them and still let them make the running.

  9. Be interested in their interest in their interest

    Suppose they’re clearly interested in something. They have a hobby or a particular favourite something, something they’re quite passionate about.  Be interested in their interest in that topic – don’t pretend to be interested in the topic itself. Suppose they are interested in cacti growing.  Don’t pretend to be interested in that, but in why they are interested.  For example, how long have you been interested? how many cacti do you have? Are they difficult to maintain? are they valuable? It doesn’t really matter what their interest is. You need to be interested, curious about their interest in that particular hobby or, or topic

  10. Bridge

    You may well have some points you want to get across, or you may want to bring the conversation round to something that is the purpose in your view of the conversation.

    So you need to learn how to bridge from their topic to the one  you want to talk about am able to offer. You need to make a connection between what they are talking about and what you want to talk about.  So listen for something they say that you can ‘bridge’ to your preferred topic. And why this is a powerful skill is because by linking what you want to say to what they are already interested in, there will be more continued interest in what you have to say.

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We know it’s a faff
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We know it’s a faff
And a bit of a pain;
But it really helps us
Stay on top of our game…