Here are my top 10 tips for improving your rapport-building techniques:
1. Focus on your appearance – You don’t get a second chance at a first impression, so make it count. How you dress is a key component of making a positive first impression and immediately establishing rapport. Your appearance should help you connect with people; not create a barrier.
2. Isopraxism – Where possible, adjust your own body language and paralinguistics so that you reflect that of the person you’re talking to. An example of this, is when they nod their head, you nod yours instantly to signal agreement or affirmation.
3. Matching – Try to match the other person’s rate and depth of breathing, their pace, volume, pitch, tonality and tempo. This will create a hypnotic synchronisation. Try to be subtle though, as being too overt can turn mimicry into mockery.
4. Silence – Encourage others to talk freely about themselves and then truly listen to what they have to say. Remember that for most people, their favourite subject is themselves. The average person will say between 25,000 and 30,000 words a day. We might hear what someone says, but do we always listen?
5. Repeat and approve – After someone speaks, make sure you occasionally repeat a brief synopsis of what they said and then approve for positive reinforcement. Be careful not to sound like a parrot though!
6. Show empathy – Empathy is the ability to understand others by seeing things from their perspective. Try to develop your emotional intelligence and perceptual awareness.
7. Use their name – When you use someone’s name in conversation, you immediately create a more personal connection.
8. Common ground – Commonality is the technique of deliberately finding something in common with a person in order to build a sense of camaraderie and trust. Using open-ended questions is often the easiest way of identifying common ground.
9. Reciprocity – Reciprocal altruism is hardwired in our genetics, so giving gifts or doing favours without directly asking for something in return can often trigger feelings of obligation.
10. Be genuine – Above all else, it is important to be yourself; as everyone else is already taken.