Why is it Important to Build Rapport in Business?

You are in a new place and you feel like an absolute stranger in the crowd. “Don’t forget to connect with other people!” an advice from your friend, a successful entrepreneur, keeps lingering in your mind. You feel intimidated, but you still mustered your confidence and initiated a conversation with the person sitting next to you. However, both of you were unable to see eye-to-eye on things. The conversation died within minutes. What should you do? How do you keep this going? Should you just make up an excuse, get up, and run away from him?

You realise situations like this keep happening to you. You find yourself stuck in circumstances where you are unable to keep up with the flow of conversations, and as a result, you find difficulties in building a good relationship with the people around you. You are unable to expand your circle. You think you are doing a perfect job as you have a lot of knowledge to be discussed with others, and your method of communicating is just fine. What are you actually lacking in? Could you make a name for yourself in the future if this is the case? Why exactly is building rapport so important in the business world?

Dylan is a successful businessman who often travels from one city to another. On one of his business trips, Dylan went to a five-star hotel to have a night’s stay. Unfortunately, the receptionist at the front desk informed him that the hotel was fully booked. Dylan was very disappointed as this was a hotel he usually frequents and such incidents did not occur to him before. Dylan was reluctant to go to other hotels around the area as he knew this hotel offered the best value for money. He was determined to get a place in that hotel that particular night. With his expertise in communicating with other people and building good relationships, Dylan knew exactly what had to be done.

What is Rapport?

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Rapport. This is the key to establishing good relationships and understanding with the people around you, be it people you know thoroughly, acquaintances, or even strangers. Rapport easily means the ability for you to create trust and relationship with others, using a process of matching and mirroring. Matching and mirroring helps create a sense of deep similarity and connection between you and the people you are dealing with. It is the responsiveness being achieved from other people, but this does not necessarily mean they like you. Like you or not, is all up to an individual and you are not able to change that. Response is what you are looking for. Therefore, in simpler terms, rapport = the ability to elicit response.

Rapport is the basis for effective communication and good relationships, allowing you to connect with people. As a result, you gain a sense of trust and credibility from them. From their perspective, you will be seen as a charismatic individual – exerting confidence and passion. In turn, you would be able to influence them and as an entrepreneur, this should be your ultimate goal. Remember, your goal is not to make other people like you; your goal is to make them SEE THINGS like you. 

Three Key Steps of Building Rapport 

Generally, rapport is established by your ability to match and mirror others. Are you ready to discover the method that could help you build rapport easily? Just remember three key steps, and you are good to go!

Step 1: Calibration

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Calibration could simply mean adjusting. In achieving rapport, calibration is the act of conducting a non-judgemental observation of the people around you. In this step, you are not directly interacting with them yet; you are merely watching them. Observe their body language, the changes in the intonation of their voice as they communicate, the direction of their eyes while talking to others, the words they use. Do not miss a single minute of their actions. From this observation, you are supposed to be able to determine the person’s characteristics and get a fair idea of their behaviour.

Step 2: Matching, Mirroring, and Crossover

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This is the major part of the process. Matching and Mirroring involves you becoming just like the other person at a deep unconscious level. You are not necessarily doing it on purpose; instead, you are adopting yourself to their personalities based on what you have observed earlier. Communication plays a crucial role in this step.

Did you know effective communication is collectively made up of three elements? Communication cannot be effective simply by just talking and listening. You need to consider the words, tonality, and most importantly, body language. Words, including the key words chosen, common experiences, and chunk level, only make up 7% of effective communication. 38% consists of tonality, which is your voice, pitchy, tempo, and volume. The remaining significant fraction, 55%, is your body language. This is your posture, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, and even breathing!

To ensure you are matching and mirroring successfully, you need to have all three elements while communicating with others. Use words that could be easily understood, control your tonality, and exert a confident body language. Be loud and stern, but not too loud where you seem to be merely making noise for nothing. Keep your hands moving to the tempo of you speaking, rather than crossing your arms as this may portray cockiness instead.
While matching and mirroring is important, in some situations you may need to adapt a different approach – Crossover. This is where you have to match their behaviour with a different movement instead. Crossover comes in handy when you have to deal with people associated in negative states, by which you do not see it of any use to match and mirror. For instance, tap your foot in time of their speech rhythm. This may seem like an intimidating action, but best believe this could distract them and make them reconsider their actions at the moment.
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Step 3: Pacing and Leading

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Now that you have successfully matched and mirrored the other person, you have reached the final step that is to pace and lead. Pacing is a process of trying to match the other person to build rapport. You follow their actions by doing the same thing as them. This should be able to shift their attention towards you. From this, you consequently lead them into another state as per your ultimate goal of approaching them. The outcome? You achieve victory by influencing them to see things like you do!

You may currently be having uncertainties whether matching and mirroring would actually help you successfully build rapport with others. I have come across people who constantly disagree with my thoughts and both of us do not get along well. I tried mirroring. It did not work. Why is this so? This occurs because there is mismatching or miscommunication between the both of us, where the physiology, tonality, and words of both parties do not match each other. Does this mean you cannot achieve rapport at all?

You could consider other ways to build rapport if that is the case. I will bring up a mutual interest before going straight to the point, by asking open-ended questions. Perhaps, listen to them, give a gift, tell an interesting story, or just pay a compliment to them. Yes, everyone appreciates compliments! In short, you do not necessarily need to 100% follow some stipulated guidelines to achieve rapport; sometimes you have to determine the best method to approach a person and influence them.

Do you still remember Dylan? What did he do to solve his problem? Rapport is the answer.
Dylan utilised the three key steps to communicate with the receptionist and managed to influence her to convince her manager to get him a room in the hotel for the night. No anger nor threats were used to influence the receptionist, just effective communication gained through calibration, matching and mirroring, and finally leading and pacing. Therefore, what makes Dylan a successful businessman is his ability to establish rapport effortlessly.
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