Recently on a workshop a delegate asked me to explain what I meant by rapport.
Dictionary definition:- a friendly, harmonious relationship especially : a relationship characterised by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy.
Rapport starts with that lovely small talk that puts some-one at ease, and they step into your world and feel comfortable. For some it is the most natural thing in the world and yet for others it can feel contrived and clumsy.
A colleague once described it to me as creating “limbic soup” which has stuck with me as a perfect explanation of what is happening mentally and physically. If you are interacting with another person and you feel immediately comfortable, you feel safe because the emotional part of the brain the limbic mode relaxes. We also know that oxytocin’s are released, another chemical to help you relax into the conversation, creating a connection and lovely soup.
Insights from the book “How to Talk to Anyone” by Leil Lowndes gives some actual tools and techniques. She describes conversations as being similar to a game of ping pong. You serve and you expect a return and then you may have to return again.
The serve is the hardest how do you start a chat by not using the usual opening gambits which can often have the reverse affect of shutting some-one down. She suggests an acronym “WIT”- We, It & They:-
We – using we brings people closer together – we are in this together
Example: “I hear she’s a great speaker, we are in for a treat”
It – Have an “it” up your sleeve – is there a current news story that everyone is talking about
Example: “What do you think about (insert your It)?
They – Know something before you meet up, what hobbies/interests do they have
Example: They – “Bob told me you support Liverpool”
Most of us are lazy with our interactions and go for standard questions:-
“How are you?”
“What do you do?”
The first is far too wide, and you never know what is going on in anyone’s world, and chances are you will get the standard response of “fine” which is extremely hard to interpret and does not give you anything to work on.
What do you do? – is another stock question which is more often answered by talking about work, which may not be their true passion. Much better opening is:-
“How do you like to spend most of your time?”
The brain has to think about the answer it does not have a standard response and you will get a lovely insight into the person you have just met. To keep the conversation going and making it more about them, just repeat their words back to them. The last word they say with a question, just nods and provide really good positive non verbal indicators that you are interested.
Rapport is a skill and when deployed effectively can make anyone feel fabulous, be more artful in thinking about how you want a person to feel. Try different openers and really listen and make it all about them.
Please do get in touch for a communication workshop firstname.lastname@example.org