Reaching a state of rapport – being in-tune, in sync or on the same wave-length as someone – is one of those skills that most people have some natural grasp of, but with focus and fine-tuning you can become exceptional at building emotional connections.

Five ways to build a strong rapport:

1. Be Tigger with Tigger but not with Eeyore

I’ve been in meetings where enthusiastic Partners have been talking with down-beat, rather fatigued, clients.  The Partners think that if they can inject a bit more vigour into the meeting, then the client will be swept along by it.  They wont.  If you are a Tigger you are more likely to succeed in building a sense of rapport if you can somehow temper your va-va-voom and see the world from the client’s perspective. 

As anyone who’s read a bluffers guide to NLP will tell you, matching and mirroring someone’s body language, movements and tone of voice will help you build rapport.  You’ll find you do some of this naturally and don’t take it too far or you will give them the heebie-jeebies.

2.  Listen hard

Only by taking a genuine interest in the other person, can you really absorb their tone and body language and build a picture of how they see the world.  If you insist on holding court at all times you will not be able to fully observe their physical and verbal clues about what they are really thinking.  So let them talk, listen hard and immerse yourself in the world from their perspective. 

3.  Be genuine

People like people who are like them.  But if you are not, don’t fake it.  There will be a conflict between what you say and what you do and this will either be clear to the client or you will expend huge amounts of energy trying to keep up the act.  This is one great reason why you should try to work with people who genuinely interest you and you enjoy being with.

4.  Don’t treat people like units

I worked with one fee-earner who I found it difficult to warm to but could not work out why.    Once I heard a colleague describe him as “a smart guy but purely transactional”, I thought that is it! – that explains why he struggles to build rapport.  He dealt with others as employees or clients – and took no interest in them as people.

5.  Don’t pretend to be flawless

One thing that does not come naturally to a lot of Professionals is to show a little vulnerability.  Think of good friends that you have socially.  Do you find it easier to relate to the ones who are always on top of the world and all conquering – or is it easier with the ones who from time to time have a bit of a wobble in one part of their lives – and confess to not having all the answers?
Focus on these five areas and you should find they reap rewards – and if not, maybe it’s time for that breath freshener!

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