When it comes to the concept of how to build rapport, there are quite a number of factors to take into consideration. From what type of rapport you want to build, to what to watch for. It’s ok to feel somewhat intimidated when peeking under the hood of social interaction! Relax! Uncle Prometheus is here to guide you through the steps so that it’s both fun and enlightening. With practice, you’ll come to gain an understanding of what is really going on when people are speaking.
The first thing you need to decide when thinking about learning to build rapport is what kind of rapport you’d like to build. For those of you who stumbled on this link without any previous knowledge, rapport can be defined as a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups involved have an understanding of each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.
The two types of rapport are:
1) Narrow Rapport: this is what people tend to tell you to do when teaching you how to make friends. This, however, is not good for making a friendship, but is much better for making an activity partner. Narrow rapport is picking one topic and digging deep into it and really focusing on the details of that area of thought. Do you have a friend who you only talk about cars with, everything is cars, and nothing else. After a long while of this, have you ever tried to talk to them about a problem or something outside of that topic? For those of you who haven’t, believe me that it can feel somewhat awkward. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this rapport, as it’s good for creating a specific type of bond!
2) Wide Rapport: Think about your best friend. You can talk about anything and everything under the sun with them (hopefully!), and it’s taken years to get to this point. Would you believe me if I told you it was possible to create this with an absolute stranger in a relatively short time? Believe it. This type of relationship is called a broad friendship, and the key to forging one is to talk about a broad selection of ideas and activities. This allows both parties to feel like they can bring anything to the table and it will be taken seriously.
Most people are aware of how to build narrow rapport, as this is the conventional knowledge and has probably been tried many times with the end goal of having a broad friendship. Since that is probably the case, I will focus primarily on wide rapport.
There are a few factors you need to be aware of that make it a bit easier:
1) Body language: doing some research into body language gestures and what they mean can be greatly beneficial. There was a study done that showed that mirroring people’s body language (doing the same stances and gestures) can make people feel more connected and in tune. This typically done naturally when people are getting along, but it can be done consciously. In the study, they had the person mimic the participant either immediately, or after a small delay. If mirrored immediately, the participant felt like they were mocking them or manipulating the relationship, and this broke rapport. When there was a delay and it remained undetected, rapport was built and the relationship felt stronger than before.
2) Physical Contact: People tend to touch people they like, and feel closer to people who touch them. There is a ladder of comfort when it comes to physical contact. The safest place to touch someone would be their upper arm (bicep/shoulder area) during conversation when you are just starting to get to know one another. Be aware that excessive touch will make you seem overly familiar, decreasing their affection for you. A good way to get around this would be using a technique known as fractionation.
3) Rate of speech: matching their rate of speech will help them feel more at ease and give them a feeling that you are more like minded. If you speed significantly differs from your conversation partner, you will give two different, equally bad impressions: too slowly gives the impression you are slow-witted and boring; too fast will make them feel like you are unpredictable, or trying to sell them something. It’s not a perfect science, but keeping this aspect in mind will help you significantly!
4) Acceptance: Part of being a good friend and – more importantly – person is to be accepting of everything the other person says. There is a significant difference between accepting and agreeing with someone. Accepting has more to do with tolerance and keeping an open mind. Agreeing means that you think the same things they think, which may not be true. Remember that you can try to convince them of other opinions, as this is the natural course of conversation, but keep it cool and collected if you aim to make friends.
5) Topics: Remember to talk about a broad range of things that interest you. Are you into something a little less main stream? Taboo even? You may want to avoid pulling those topics out to a later time – bring those out to play when you have a bit of a rapport going with the person and you have an idea how accepting they may be with that topic. Maybe you want to weed out people who aren’t interested in a particular topic that is a little more taboo. You might actually want to pull it out at the beginning, though remember to keep it gentle, not forceful. If you keep an open mind when speaking to people, you’ll have even more to say in your conversations with someone else! Remember the old adage: we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak! Be aware that bantering – also known as contentless conversation – is very useful in building rapport. A perfect example is in the video below.
6) Use the power of Mystery: Learning how to be mysterious goes hand-in-hand when learning how to build rapport. I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll mention it again: mystery really helps in building relationships. When successfully done, it helps people think about you, it makes you more interesting, and best of all it stops you from forcing information they don’t want to hear. Pay attention to Fundamentals #3 and #5 of the post How to be Mysterious.
Finally, remember to talk to anyone and everyone! The more people you speak to, the more natural it will become. Who wants to be a keyboard jockey who can’t actually do the things he knows so much about? No one! So get out there and start talking! You’ll be a Rapport Building Master in no time!