Getting to know someone is one thing, but breaking through the friendship barrier is something else completely. You might be good at the usual formalities, but how many people can you call true friends? Knowing how to build rapport with people is a crucial social skill because it is the bridge from being an acquaintance to a friend.
Building rapport is the act of establishing a deeper and more substantial connection with someone. Rapport is established when you get beyond small talk and the usual formalities to create a more personal friendship with someone.
So let’s really get into this topic so that you learn everything you need to know about building rapport with almost anyone you encounter.
Rapport: The bridge to true friendship
For a big chunk of my life, I felt lonely because I lacked the social skills to create any sort of meaningful connection with people. The learning curve was long, but after realizing that building rapport is a skill set, my social life transformed in beautiful ways.
Everyone longs for deep connections, new friends, and exciting new experiences. But most people have the same fear that you do. They don’t know how to move beyond small talk or form a real connection with people.
For me, learning how to build rapport is not just about making life generally more enjoyable, but it’s also out of necessity. There have been one too many times when I’ve been caught in a tough situation, and the solution was always through others.
It quickly became obvious just how important rapport-building is in my everyday life. I can assure you, I wouldn’t be living the life I am now without having developed this fundamental, yet often overlooked skillset – to naturally, and genuinely connect with people.
Turning small interactions into meaningful connections
When I first left Australia to live in Brazil, I was worried about winding up alone in a foreign country. Onboard my plane from the UAE to São Paulo, a young lady sat down next to me. In an awkward attempt to get the engine started, I asked her where she was going.
We chatted for most of the flight, and she gave me the ins and outs of the culture that I was soon going to be living in. We traded information and suddenly I had a valuable contact.
The next day while I was in a hostel in Curitiba, I bumped into a man from the US who was passing through. So I took the initiative to start a conversation with him and show some interest in his life. It led to an interesting conversation, and he offered to show me around the city. I learned a lot from this man, and he quickly became a staple for me.
The next day, I would meet some other students at the hostel who were getting ready for the same exchange program I was in, and we quickly became friends throughout the semester. Months flew by and before I knew it, it was time to say goodbye to everyone I became so close with.
So I continued traveling, and eventually, it became more than an adventure. It became my entire life where I was constantly meeting a stream of new faces. In every country I end up in, this outgoingness and ability to connect with people has made the entire experience for me. But it didn’t come naturally at first.
That’s why I want to pass on what I’ve learned so that you can easily build rapport with almost anyone, and bring the magic of yourself wherever you go, and to whoever you’re with.
Why is it important to build rapport with people?
Rapport building is the process of cultivating deeper and longer-lasting friendships with people. It’s the ability to enter someone else’s world, connect on mutual interests, and see one another as three-dimensional people.
Without building rapport, your social connections tend to be more distant. You might hover around small talk and pleasantries, and the conversation usually expires after a short period of time.
When you have a rapport with someone, you feel at ease around the person, and they feel at ease around you. You can let your guard down and be your authentic self without fear of being judged, or feeling like you need to make a good impression. Conversation flows, and you create an emotional bond as you naturally socially calibrate with the person.
As your social life is deeply rooted in your life experience, your ability to build rapport influences every aspect of it. from the quality of your social circles, your dating life, your career and avocations, to the amount of opportunities that open up for you. Here are some reasons why building rapport is so important.
Building rapport humanizes the interaction
When you establish rapport with someone, you see beyond the mask that they wear and get a glimpse into the person’s true character. Rapport opens up a window of transparency that creates space for a more intimate connection.
You will see that person’s strengths and weaknesses, wounds, vulnerabilities, past, dreams, faults and flaws. Instead of taking things at face value, the person becomes three-dimensional to you. Overall building rapport with someone is a humanizing experience, and you get a deeper view into who they really are.
You get closer to people
Building rapport allows you to get closer to someone, as you connect on a heart-to-heart level. This is usually when they will consider you a friend, and vice versa, so naturally, this leads to new things.
Instead of always feeling like an outsider, rapport often allows you to get into people’s inner circles, because they now trust you. This opens up the door for lasting friendships, invitations, new experiences, and a whole lot of fun. After all, why wouldn’t you want to make more good friends?
Building rapport helps you professionally
When you build rapport with people in the professional world, you make more connections. Instead of being vague connections, those connections become personal high-quality connections. People that you establish rapport with might offer you a job, or keep you in mind for new opportunities.
If you become friends with your boss, you’re probably going to get a lot further. That’s just the way the world works, real connections are generally valued higher in the professional world than competence.
You trust people more
When you build rapport with someone, you start to trust them more. Part of this is because of the transparency aspect that comes with rapport building. With that said, people also tend to trust you more. It’s important to break down this barrier to form more fulfilling connections, otherwise, it can be difficult to be set apart from just another person.
Your communication becomes better
Sometimes it can be hard to fully express yourself and convey your ideas to someone you don’t really know. You might hold back, feel nervous, or not trust them enough to speak about more personal matters. So in most cases, you just don’t go there, and the conversation remains superficial.
When you have rapport with someone, communication becomes more effective as you find yourself speaking from your heart, not your mind. You don’t worry so much about what the person is going to think of you, which allows you to express yourself freely. You become much more honest in your communication, and you can learn more about this in the link below.
How to build rapport with a stranger
There’s no formula for establishing rapport with people, as these connections are cultivated differently. Some people might just want the companionship of sitting together and watching a movie in silence. For others, you may need to navigate deep into their psyche, talk through their issues, and earn their trust.
That’s why it’s important to treat everyone as a potential friend, simply because you don’t know who you’ll establish rapport with, and who will remain as an acquaintance. Either way, here are some tips to help you build rapport with people.
If you want to build rapport, you need to be outgoing. That means to use every opportunity you can to strike up a conversation with someone and have a chat.
Most of the people in my life came about from taking the initiative to talk to them. That’s most of my good friends, romantic partners, and all the people I have connected with over the course of my travels.
So if you want to get good at rapport building, jump on every opportunity you can to talk with people. Just ask a few basic questions to people that you interact with on a regular basis, and see where those questions lead. Don’t be afraid to stay for a few moments and just have a chat if they seem interested in the conversation.
You’re just trying to bridge the gap to a real conversation where you can get to know each other. Simply asking how someone is going, or what they’re up to, with a smile and good energy will get you far. For a new perspective on jumping on opportunities, check out the article below.
Be genuinely interested in knowing the person
After showing a genuine interest in people, I started to notice how it translated into my social relationships. Here’s the thing. Most people never really get an audience to talk about themselves, as everyone wants to be the center of attention.
When meeting someone for the first time, acknowledge that you are speaking to this person to understand them. Any self-centered demeanor is like a poisonous odor. Your intentions will be exposed, so make sure that they’re positive.
Your interactions should revolve around discovering the other person and getting to know them for who they really are. When you genuinely want to learn about them, and actually listen to them without injecting your own agenda, that’s when people feel acknowledged.
Listen intently to what they say
One important aspect of building rapport is to be an active listener. This shows that you’re interested in what the other person is saying, and people appreciate it. Don’t cut them off, don’t try to interject, but just let the person speak and listen with intent.
When people see that you are listening to them, they are likely to open up more to you. To learn more about becoming a great listener, visit the article below.
Ask the right questions
Mostly, rapport is formed through stimulating, lively, and interesting conversation. If you’re only making small talk with people, you’re not going to be breaking that friendship barrier anytime soon. This is why it’s important to ask the right questions.
Ask open-ended questions that encourage the other person to share more about themselves and their experiences. This means paraphrasing what they’ve said in your own words, to make sure that you’ve understood them correctly. Make the conversation interesting and dynamic, and you’re going to stand out from the crowd.
Rapport is established by being authentic. People can’t connect with a false image because there is no substance backing a façade. By being authentic, you will attract more like-minded people into your life while others will fade away. With that said, express your true identity, and don’t be ashamed of it!
Your shyness, awkward tendencies, and offbeat personality might be what draws certain people to you in the first place. Don’t pretend that you’re someone you’re not because this seldom works in your favor.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable
We tend to wear masks because we’re afraid of what other people might think of us. So we put out a persona that isn’t exactly calibrated with who we really are. But people like to see that vulnerability. It’s what actually triggers positive emotions that make them feel like they’re talking to a real person.
So allow yourself to be vulnerable. Some people might not resonate with you and that’s fine. But other people will resonate with your own unique style, and that’s what matters. That’s where the real friends are made.
Seek out like–minded people
Aim to meet people who are similar to you, regarding their values, interests, beliefs, personality, and identity. If you are seeking out people who are similar to you, it’s going to be easier and feel more natural to bridge deeper connections, because your personalities overlap.
Of course, generally talk to everyone regardless of who they are. But it is easier to build rapport with someone who has some sort of commonality with you, and something to connect over.
Be warm and inviting to people
People are attracted to your energy (or repulsed by it). Therefore, have a vibe that makes people feel comfortable with you. This means that you should radiate an uplifting, positive energy that people associate with good feelings. Therefore, people will associate you with good feelings!
If you can get the energy right, this is a game changer. I would say that my energy is my biggest asset when it comes to creating good connections with people. They pick up on my relaxing judgemental free energy, and often open up to me because of that. People may not know who you are, but they will feel you out, so make sure it’s good.
Prove to people that you can be trusted
People need to know that you can be trusted before they let you into their life. Many people have been taken advantage of, exploited, and hurt by other people whom they thought they could trust. You need to make sure that this isn’t you.
Establish trust by keeping everything you speak about confidential, taking care of them, and showing them compassion. Consider them as a real person who has feelings and emotions. Never take advantage of people.
Offer value in some form to the relationship
People want to have others in their lives who can contribute positivity to it. You can offer people value through interesting and fulfilling conversations, make them laugh, help them out, console them if they need it, and show them that you care about them.
Be someone who can make that person’s life a little better in some form, and they will really appreciate it. When you offer value through your social interactions, you become a valuable friend.
Use your body language
One of the most important things to keep in mind when establishing rapport is to be aware of your body language. Make sure that your posture is open and relaxed, and that you’re making eye contact with the person you’re speaking to. Avoid crossing your arms or legs, as this can make you seem closed off.
Finally, be aware of the other person’s body language. Pay attention to their posture, facial expressions, and gestures. This can give you clues about how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking. If they seem closed off, you may need to adjust your approach to make them feel more at ease.
Fundamentals to build rapport
When you cross paths with someone and interact with them, imagine the different experiences they have gone through to get to where they are. Think about what their life journey may have been like to have led them to this point in time, with you.
Curiosity is key, and there’s no better way to get to know someone than showing genuine curiosity about their life. This is where the conversational spotlight technique comes in handy. Part of rapport building is to understand that everybody has a life story, despite how different their lives are from yours.
From a clean slate, work to see everyone as a potential friend who you would like to know. If you build a healthy social mentality as a foundation, you will find people from every angle naturally drifting into your orbit, as you do with theirs.
Building rapport in everyday life
Imagine that you go to a local store, whether it’s a library, supermarket, or whatever it may be. You see the shop clerk regularly and have a small chat every time you do. He knows who you are, you know who he is, but there’s still a disconnect.
Perhaps you want to keep it as a professional relationship, perhaps you just don’t really care that much. Even though you know the person, you haven’t built rapport with him because you know very little about their personal life, and haven’t formed any sort of bond.
Now imagine if you hit off this with the person and caught up occasionally outside of the work environment. You are completely transparent with one another, and enjoy each other’s company. As you’ve had time to chat and open up to one another, he knows all about you, and you know all about him. There is no awkwardness in the communication because you’re not trying to set an impression.
Instead of a shop clerk, you see him as a friend who happens to be working at that particular shop. This is an example of having a rapport with someone because you have a deeper bond.
Rapport building questions
The questions you ask should incite curiosity and give the person something to chat about. They should be open-ended questions that offer that space for something to really talk about what they find interesting.
Generally, your questions should be casual, and similar to something you would ask your friends. Conversation starters are okay, but you want to get a little more personal, otherwise, you’ll be put in the category of small talk. Here are some common questions I ask to get people engaged in conversation:
- Where are you from?
- How long have you been living here?
- What have you been doing today?
- Do you have plans for the weekend?
- What do you do with yourself?
- How is work treating you?
- Do you enjoy what you do?
- What do you usually do outside of work?
- Did you hear about _________?
- What do you think about ________?
People love to talk about themselves, so make sure your attention is directed at them, and not yourself. Below is an article to perfect the conversational spotlight technique, which is about getting someone else to talk.
What not to do when trying to establish rapport
While building rapport can be a powerful tool for creating strong relationships, there are some common mistakes people make which can blow the interaction. Here are a few things to avoid when building rapport.
Don’t be too eager
While it’s important to be friendly, being too eager can come across as needy which will trigger the person’s red light. Try to strike a balance between being friendly and being respectful of the other person’s boundaries.
Don’t focus too much on yourself
The harsh truth is that nobody really cares about you before you create some sort of connection with them. You’re a stranger to them, so realize that and don’t take yourself too seriously. After all, why should they? Focus on them instead to break through that first barrier.
Don’t be too negative
While it’s important to be honest, being too negative can create tension. Simply put, you’re not going to be enjoyable to be around if you’re constantly complaining or being negative. Try to focus on the positive aspects of your experiences and avoid dwelling on the negative.
Don’t forget to follow up
Building rapport is an ongoing process, and it’s important to follow up with the people you’ve connected with. Get their social media handle or number. Message them. Take the time to follow up which can help strengthen your relationships over time.
How to build rapport with a client
If you’re in a practice where you’re working with clients, it’s important to build rapport with them. Building rapport with a client helps put them at ease, and they will see you as a true friend who they can trust, rather than a robotic professional.
To build rapport with a client, you need to humanize yourself. There’s a balance between being professional, and not being too professional. You want to come across as a three-dimensional person who also lives their own life, but you don’t want to overdo it where it potentially sabotages the professional relationship.
Start with a casual chat
Before getting into the work, spend a few minutes getting to know the client. Ask them questions about things that are unrelated to the nature of your work together. This can include questions such as how their day is going, what their plans are for the weekend, or about their personal life.
Speak from a position like a person is a good friend of yours, where the conversation is casual like you’re catching up with an old friend and are invested in their life story.
Answer any and all questions that you’re asked. Don’t be afraid to talk about personal subjects to you such as your family life, and how you’re feeling in general. Talk about yourself a little too if it’s warranted, so that your client gets a full picture of who you really are, and that you are a real person living a real life.
Realize that it’s okay to show emotions. It’s okay to feel passionate about a subject, or maybe feel a certain way emotionally.
Be authentic to your own style
As a means to present oneself professionally, many people put on a mask when they’re talking with clients. I call this the professionalism mask, and it is harmful for a variety of reasons.
First, it’s easy to tell when someone isn’t being their authentic self. It’s impossible to connect with a facade, and it overall feels crummy. So instead of putting on a mask to try and appear a certain way, just be transparent with the client.
of course, present your best self. You want to have some sense of professionalism but don’t overdo it. If you like to joke, then joke around a little as long as it’s appropriate. If you like to swear to convey emphasis or power, then swear. But act in a way that is congruent with you, and it will really help you build rapport with your client.
Tell them that they can always reach out to you
Part of building rapport with a client is actually being a friend to them. This means that within reason, the client should be able to message you, ask you questions, and seek counsel if they need to. You should answer their questions as if you are genuinely wanting to help a friend, as they are a friend.
of course, you don’t want the connection to consume too much time. You have things to do and that’s what the office is for. Nor should the client abuse this privilege of having a connection to you, otherwise it’s appropriate to make the connection more strictly professional. But to have some lenience.