Rapport is important in life. If I had only one interpersonal skill in an otherwise dull, boring personality, that skill would be rapport. No question about it. Rapport is that feeling you get when you look at someone and instantly think “I will get on well with this person.” Rapport is what bonds us. Rapport (pronounced “ra-Pore”) is often a difficult concept to grasp. If you want an example of rapport, look at this man’s face:
It’s the movie star Jackie Chan, sure, but ignore that for a second. Pretend you’ve never seen him before. Go on, stare at his face for ten seconds. What do you think he’s like, as a person? Do you think you’d get on with him? Try to guess, from looking at his face, if he’s a nice guy.
Chances are, you will think he’s a nice guy. Very approachable. Look at his head, how he carries it in a humble, slightly-downward angle,
yet the slight tilt shows warmth and kindness. His smile is mostly with his eyes, and he shows his teeth which tells us he’s genuine.
These, so subtle mannerisms help make up the concept of rapport, which can be your most powerful, formidable weapon.
Why? It doesn’t make a stranger think they like you – no. It makes a stranger actually like you. When people like you, they want to help you, give you business, introduce you to friends, spend more time with you, buy you lovely extravagant hats, and cook you delicious dinners.
So what’s happening in the brain when rapport occurs? When we see a nice smiling face, many things occur:
1. First the occipital lobes process the light that comes in into a recognisable picture that our brain can
understand. It then sends this picture to the thalamus.
2. The thalamus takes the picture and shoots it over to the frontal lobes where we become conscious
of the image. However, it also sends the information to many other places, such as the basal ganglia.
3. The basal ganglia interprets the face and makes unconscious “tags” – for example, the teeth being
shown in the smile is “tagged” as a boosted emotion. At the same time, the rising of various facial
muscles are each tagged as pleasure, happiness, enjoyment, and so on. This information is shot back
into the thalamus which (among other things) compares the information with some of that stored in
the rest of the limbic system.
4. The limbic system, hard at work, constructs these various tags into a mixture of various emotions, in
this case, pleasure.
5. The amygdala generates a mild sympathetic emotion of pleasure. If it wasn’t for this function of
being able to “feel other people’s feelings”, we would be unable to truly tell how other people were
In essence, when a person who we perceive to be “happy to see us” approaches, our unconscious mind generates a genuine “happy to see them” feeling. Quite often, however, our super-awesome frontal lobes decide not to show it back. Thus the cycle ends. It feels good to us but the person has no feedback. If we do show the feedback of being happy to see someone, it builds up and they get the feeling of “happy to see us”. This creates a genuine upward spiral of pleasure, until one of us decides to stop showing it. This mutual pleasure is the essence of rapport.
What Factors Help Me Build Rapport?
Rapport isn’t just about your facial expression – although that is clearly important. It seems a bit mechanical to build a list of factors that contribute to rapport, but I’ve never let that stop me before, so here it is.
With some practice, you can set these factors on “rapport mode”, if that makes sense? In my mind, I like to set my face to “rapport” to create what I call Rapport Facial Expression. You can do this with all the factors outlined below.
Rapport Facial Expression
Facial expression should be non-threatening, and certainly not dominant or smug. Confidence should be shown, but there should be no hint of judgement. In your mind you should say “I’m pleased to be here, I’m pleased to meet you and everyone, I accept you all for who you are.” This should unconsciously reflect in your facial expression. Smile genuinely at people when they approach; you should be genuinely pleased to see them.Take a look at the two faces below.
Both men are wearing suits, smiling. They are both facing slightly
to our right, and both smiling with their eyes. Yet one is giving off
vastly different rapport facial signals than the other. If you were to
meet these men for the first time, which one would you get along with better?
Clothing should not be too tight or show-offish. For maximum rapport, don’t wear muscle tops, revealing
dresses, or anything to “peacock” in a dominant manner. (Peacocking means drawing attention to
yourself with wild accessories.)
If you do want to peacock, wear something humourous or odd, such as a bright red shirt and an unusual
hat. If you’re dead-set on showing off your body, then do so in the most subtle possible. The key
is to look non-threatening.
Your stance should be alert and confident, with open gestures. Avoid putting your hands on your hips
or folding your arms. Do not press your knees or feet together, as this is a defensive posture.
Be willing to shake hands with everyone you meet. If you have sweaty hands, hold a napkin or spare
shirt in your right hand – no-one will question it. When it comes time to shake hands, swap the absorbent
item into your left hand and your right hand should still be dry by the time you shake hands.
You can tell a lot about someone just from watching their posture. Here are five examples of posture:
The legs are identical – all that changes is the position of the arms, shoulders and angle of the head.
Can you tell which picture matches which description?
1. Ashamed, shy, not confident
2. Alert, confident, perhaps even aggressively so
3. Neutral, non-threatening
4. Disappointed, bored, uninterested
5. Defensive, threatening, challenging
Building rapport through communication is where it gets very complicated. Given that there are millions
of different things you can say, mixed with millions of subtly different gestures and voice tones,
you have almost countless options on how to communicate verbally. And because each situation is
different, there is no one “right thing to say” that is always right across the board.
Good communication is built through experience, and is based on all the same rapport-building principles
we’ve looked at so far. Being warm, open, friendly and non-judgmental in your speech will all
help build rapport with someone. You’ll also need to adjust your communication based on the other
person’s mood, sense of humour, sense of urgency and level of comfort, among many other things.
For a quick reading of their mental state, focus on the three factors as listed above: facial expression,
clothing and stance.
The Article was Originally Posted on NLP Secrets.