I bet you have had times when you have walked into a shop and felt immediately welcome. I’m also pretty sure that you’ve had occasions where you’ve felt just the opposite. What was the difference? What happened in the place that created that welcome feeling within you?
Maybe the assistant noticed you entering and offered you a smile and said hello. They are telling you that you are welcome in their space both physically and mentally. Compare this with a shop where you were completely ignored until you went to pay for something. What message are you getting there?
What is rapport?
Rapport is the art of being ‘in tune’ with the people around you. Good rapport will enable you to let others know that you are interested in them, that you care about what they have to say and are keen to understand them. It sends them a message that there is common ground and creates a sense of consideration, respect and trust.
Good rapport lies at the heart of your effective communication. It enables you to get people’s attention and for them to take onboard what you have to say. Good rapport comes from body language and how you say things through the tonality and rhythm of your voice. Together, body language and how you say your words make up 93% of your communication. What you say is only 7%!
Of course, when interacting with others our communication can be non-verbal using just our body language. How are you communicating right now?
I’m sure that you have experienced a situation where within a group of people one person makes a suggestion and you just know that others don’t agree – even if they remain silent. What tells you that they don’t agree and feel comfortable with the suggestion? Those of you who are in agreement will probably be sharing the same body language; they may be more animated in the discussion, and as such will be actively buying in to the idea.
Those that disagree can do so without having to say or do a thing. All they need to do is withdraw their rapport in some way; maybe though pulling back in their seat, crossing their arms, closing their book or leaving the room. Maybe, through all those things if they really wanted to make a point!
So, assuming that we have some words to say, how can we maximise our tonality and body language to ensue that we have good rapport when saying them?
How to get into rapport with people.
Matching and mirroring are the two main ways to establish rapport. People that are in rapport have a certain rhythm to their voice and body movements.
Voice Tonality and Rhythm. This is 38% of your communication. The tone of your voice and the pace that you talk affects the message that you are trying to portray. People use different tones and speeds when talking. Do your best to adjust your voice to come closer to their way of talking.
Try it yourself - say something cheerful in a sad voice and see how it comes across, then switch it around and say something sad in an upbeat voice. What message are you receiving in each case?
What about when someone is talking to you and you are distracted by something else, maybe something you see? Does your voice respond in an interested manner, and does your body language bear this out?
Body language. How you hold and use your body makes up 55% of your communication. Use your body to match people’s body movements. There will be a certain pattern and rhythm to their movements that you can copy.
It’s wise to pay attention to this even if you have good intentions for doing otherwise. You could easily be misinterpreted.
How about if that shop assistant smiles and says hello but without looking at you – does that feel the same? Maybe she was preparing next week’s stock.
What if two assistants are chatting while you are in their shop even whilst politely serving you? Does the rapport exist between them or between you and them?
What if in a work environment you ask somebody to do something for you and they agree quite nicely but you can see them tense up or see their body sink slightly lower in their chair? Are they really happy to do this for you or are speech and body telling different stories?
All together now!
The next time you communicate think about rapport a little. Is it good or not? What makes it good? How could you use your body language and voice to improve rapport?
And stick with it. It can seem odd at times whilst you practice but when it becomes second nature you’ll become a more natural communicator.
Mark Spall is a Coach and Leadership trainer and delivers his materials through a variety of innovative mediums. More on Mark can be found at http://www.markspall.co.uk . Mark is the founder of the Agile Leader Network (http://www.agile-leader.com ), a knowledge base and support network for young people who wish to achieve their best in their careers and their businesses.