We all know how important relationships are, and I’m sure most of us are working diligently to create better relationships in our lives. But what’s the underlying foundation of building and maintaining healthy relationships that’s often overlooked? Rapport.
What is rapport anyway? “relation; connection, especially harmonious or sympathetic relation.”
Building strong rapport with someone makes them feel more comfortable with you and really helps take the relationship to the next level. Just think about it, you can’t have a good relationship with anyone if you two are never in rapport with each other. The stronger your rapport, the stronger the relationship.
But how do you go about building rapport? There’s a lot on this topic that I’m sure you could find pretty easily, so I want to shine some light on some lesser-known tactics for building better rapport.
The good thing about the strategies I’m sharing though is that anyone can use them. You don’t have to be some unbelievable, TED worthy, communication expert. You really just have to follow what it is I’m outlining.
I’ve used this strategies so many times. In job interviews, speaking in public, and even in more intimate relationships like with my girlfriend, and every time I do, I feel more connected to that person and there’s just a strong sense of ease.
Match Physical Alignment
You’ve been to a job interview before, how do you and the interviewer usually sit? You’re probably on directly opposite sides of some meeting room table. Talk about cold.
What about looking at a photo album with a friend? You’re probably sitting really close to each other on the living room couch. Totally different than an interview.
Which of those two scenarios builds the best rapport?
Clearly the latter.
One major difference is the alignment of the bodies. In the interview, you’re sitting across from each other and that position is just inherently adversarial. But in the photo album example, you’re sharing space, and you have your bodies aligned in the same direction. When you align your bodies, you’re more likely to feel in sync with each other and will naturally feel more at ease and cooperative with each other.
As long as you don’t take it overboard and start invading personal space, matching alignment is great way to make everyone feel a little more comfortable.
This just means matching how your body is positioned, to the other person’s body. Is his head down and his shoulders slumped? Then yours should be too. Or is his head up and his chest out? Yours should be too.
Just like matching physical alignment, when you match posture, you feel much more in sync with who ever it is that you’re talking to.
But also like matching alignment, you want to do this slowly and subtlety. Don’t make it obvious. And the match doesn’t have to be identical. If the person you’re talking to shifts his weight to his left leg, you could shift your to the right. If he crosses his legs, you could rest your ankle on your knee. It doesn’t have to be verbatim, you just want to be similar.
Have you ever been in a deep sleep, awaken by the ring of your phone, only to answer to an overzealous friend talking a thousand miles an hour about something you can barely understand? Not much rapport there right? Or maybe you’ve been in a classroom or a meeting where the instructor was talking more monotone than the guy from the old Clear Eyes commercials. No too much rapport there either.
When building rapport, you have to match the speed of the other person’s voice. Is it fast and continuous? Or is it slow with a lot of pausing? As you begin to notice a pattern, adjust your own speech to approximate the other person’s.
Match Body Movements
Some people talk with their hands when they get really excited. Others like to move around a lot. Some people don’t like to move at all. Whatever the preference of the person you’re speaking to, match it.
Just imagine, you like to speak with big sweeping, hand gestures, but the girl you’re talking to barely moves at all. There’s going to be an imbalance there and it’ll be difficult to build rapport.
Pick up on the other person’s movements and slowly and subtlety begin to adjust your own movements to approximate that other persons.
This one sounds like a given, but you would be surprised at how many times I’ve come to people with really great news and they didn’t match my enthusiasm. Recently, my podcast was featured in iTunes “New and Noteworthy” section. It was such a big deal to me and I was so excited! Smiling from ear to ear, I shared the great news with a friend of mine. His response?
“That’s cool man”.
That was it. It was disheartening. There I was on cloud 9 and I went to him to share this joy I’m experiencing, and he brought me way down because all he said is “That’s cool man”. Now granted he wasn’t really sure what a podcast was, and had never even heard of the term “New and Noteworthy”, but still. Even if you have no idea what that person is talking about, like my friend with my podcast, just celebrate with them and appreciate their joy.
Imagine had he been just as excited as I was? How much would that have changed the situation? Not only would that have increased my own happiness because now I’m sharing it with another person, but I also would have associated him with that positive experience. That’s HUGE for rapport. If you can associate yourself with positive experiences, you’re on the fast track to rapport.
But it works the other way around as well. You may have been told that if someone is yelling at you, the best thing to do is remain calm and tell that person that he needs to calm down. But that doesn’t work, if anything it just makes things worse. Have you ever told a really angry person to calm down? It just makes them even more upset.
When someone is upset or really stressed, it’s a lot better to align with the emotion first. This doesn’t mean that you agree with what your angry friend is saying, just that you understand he’s upset. So if your angry friend is yelling at you, raise your voice too. Not to start a yelling match, but just to match his voice. Once you’re on the same level, you can start to bring the conversation back down by slowly starting to lower the level of your voice. If you aligned your voice well with your friends, then he’ll naturally start to follow your lead. If he doesn’t, then try it again.
Take these rapport-building hacks and start using them to your advantage. You never know which relationship will be the one that takes your life to next level. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by simply because you couldn’t build and maintain rapport.