The dictionary defines rapport as an “especially harmonious or sympathetic relation.” A study from the Georgia Institute of Technology found that job seekers who created rapport early in their interactions with the interviewer scored higher overall than those who performed equally well in the technical part of the interview but failed to generate an early sense of connection. So how does one build that elusive sense of rapport?
Finding Common Ground
The fastest way to build rapport is find common ground. Let’s say you are meeting the new manager of sales and you need to find a way to interest her in compliance. Prior to the meeting you can view her LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter profile to find out information about her history and preferences. Where did she go to school? Where did she grow up? Does she list any volunteer activities that might show her interests? Do you have any connections in common? Any of these small pieces of information can build an instant connection between you and the person you’re meeting, especially if you bring them up early in the conversation.
Notice the Details
When you meet someone in person, look for details which could conjure commonalities. What photo is the person using for his screen-saver? Is it his children, pets, or vacation photo? Are there mementos or pictures in her office which show that she has an interest in a certain sports team, outdoor activity, or the arts? Try to find something to comment on where you have a shared interest or passion. This will immediately give the listener the feeling that you understand him or her, which immediately builds rapport.
If you can’t easily find something in common to discuss, try starting with a compliment. For example, “I heard from [name of boss or co-worker] that you did a great job on [thing], well done!” If you’re in a new office or location, try praising the city, building, artwork or anything else that catches your eye. Beginning with a compliment or positive statement lets the listener know that you have already associated good things with him or her.
Rapport-building is the art of making someone feel at ease and as if they already know you. Highlighting common experience or interests, noticing the little details and giving genuine compliments can ensure that the listener comes away from your conversation saying, “I like you. You remind me of me.”