7 Ways to Develop Rapport

1 meeting - peopleFrom our affiliates, Wicklander and Zulawski

Sometimes it seems so easy to connect with someone, and other times it seems nearly impossible. How are you at connecting with people? Are you naturally introverted? Are you overly extroverted? Everyone talks about how rapport is crucial for interviewing. Rarely does anyone tell you how to do it. Rapport is so much more than having a few good questions to ask someone. Rapport is about you and your energy. In her book “You Say More Than You Think” bestselling author, Janine Driver, discuses some ways to be mindful of our own behavior when communicating.

1. Smile and offer a handshake

Yes, this is basic rapport building. People judge people on their handshakes. I once forgot a guy’s name and referenced him as “the guy with the weak handshake.” I don’t think anyone wants to be that guy. If you want someone left with the impression of confidence, strength, power, and of someone in total control of themselves:

Smile. Wouldn’t you rather speak to someone who is smiling? So pick up your head, put your shoulders back, and smile. Offer your hand first, announce your name, make eye contact and show you are friendly and confident at the same time.

2. Make them feel like an old friend at once

Your body language broadcasts precisely how you feel at any given moment. Every inch of you must be sending the signal that you care. When we step into most conversations, especially an interview we are thinking too much. Instead, respond with candid, unself-conscious friendliness.
To trick your body into reacting, you can try this visualization technique. Picture a good friend that you lost touch with and then suddenly you are in a Starbucks and you see them. Now obviously you’re not going to go run up to your interview subject and embrace like you might your old friend. Act like a normal human and say hi and shake their hand and smile. This technique isn’t about the words. It’s about how you feel internally, the energy you give off and how you make them feel.

3. Make them feel safe.

When approaching someone under stress, there’s a warming up process you have to go through first because people are afraid of being judged. Let them know you care about them, and acknowledge there is other stuff going on in their lives. Make them feel valued. This could be as simple as, “thanks for meeting me, I know you’re busy.”

4. Come across as credible to everyone.

Beware of the appearance of lying. If you feel uncomfortable or intimidated by the person you are talking to, problems could arise. Whether you are talking to a person you are attracted to, a co-worker, your boss, or a subject during an interview there are a few things to keep in mind. Refrain from shifting, touching your face, rubbing your nose, picking your nails, touching your neck, folding your arms, rounding your shoulders or biting your lip. Of course context of the situation matters. A lip bite on a date means something totally different.

5. Don’t be a jerk.

Devices should be turned off when you meet with people you want to persuade. Turn off the phone, look them in the eye, listen and pay attention.

A few taboo topics to avoid are race, accents, religion, politics and cultural heritage. Avoid jokes with sexual undertones. Unless you’re Betty White, it’s uncomfortable. My favorite question to ask people is “what’s the most annoying thing people say to you in your profession?” I’ve been taking cabs to and from the airport every week for the last 4 years. I’ve learned cab drivers find it most rude when someone asks “Where you from and why are you here.” Don’t be that jerk.

6. Demonstrate empathy and understanding.

Saying “uh huh” is definitely better than a blank stare, and there are better options. Try short supportive statements like “I can appreciate you decided that,” or “I understand why you would say that.” When you respond in complete sentences you come across as more articulate, and your listener feels that you really understand.

7. Have something in common with as many people as possible.

Ever go to a party with a significant other and you don’t know anyone there? Then you find someone that you click with and gravitate to that person for the night. It’s likely because you had something in common with that person. Having something in common is the quickest way to rapport. People like people like themselves. Familiarize yourself with other worlds so you can discuss just about anything with anybody, no matter how little you have in common. Get a magazine you wouldn’t typically read. Follow different people on twitter. If you do this every other month, soon you’ll know a little about a lot.
Half of communication is physical behavior and tone. Less than 10% of communication is about the words. If you’ve ever sent a text message or email that was misinterpreted, you know that tone and physical behavior matter. Remember to focus on your own behavior and energy when building rapport.

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