Rapport: Our Vital Connection
You are standing in the kitchen cooking dinner when the phone rings. You answer and as you barely get out “hello” the telemarketer on the other end starts reading their canned script to you. You say you aren’t interested. They read the canned answer and without taking a breath, continue on with their sales pitch. Instant disconnection happens. If they actually did have a million dollars to hand you, you would never know because the disconnect has already happened.
This is an extreme example of not being able to establish rapport with someone. Short of being a telemarketer, what is so important for the rest of us about establishing rapport? You don’t have to be in sales to have this skill be important. If you are a human being then rapport is your lifeline between you and other humans. It is a necessary ingredient for any friendship, business acquaintance, client, partnership, friendship or any other type of relationship to develop. Establishing and keeping rapport with people determines your success as a manager, employee, spouse, parent, salesperson, and friend.
This may seem obvious to you, yet sometimes the obvious deserves a closer look. People go in and out of rapport all the time, sometimes without any apparent awareness of it. The telemarketer is an extreme example, but we have all been in situations where we get nervous or self conscious and forget to notice if we are keeping the connection going with the person we are talking to.
So how do you know if you are in rapport with someone? There are different levels of rapport, but the main ingredient in all levels is connection. You must be able to notice in your body when the connection is there. The strongest level of connection is a heart connection. You can actually feel the connection in your heart. You feel a bond with that person and they are a kindred spirit, you feel of like mind, common values and have similar opinions and thoughts. On this level, you establish trust and respect easily.
Even when you aren’t kindred spirits, you can seek a connection on a different level. Maybe it’s through humor or other common characteristics of the human condition. Sometimes it’s on an intellectual level, or even a physical level, like being involved in a game or a sport together. Sometimes it’s just putting yourself in their situation and stating that back to them, showing you understand their viewpoint. For example, if the telemarketer had just acknowledged that the person on the phone seemed busy that might have opened up more room for establishing rapport.
What If It Breaks?
What may be harder for some people than establishing rapport is being aware of the moments when rapport is broken. It’s important to be aware of when you’ve lost them. Again, listen to what your body tells you. If you are someone for whom connections are really important, then those moments when you lose it can be quite painful. You can “sense” the disconnect in your gut or energetically. You can notice that the person is “no longer with you” in the conversation. Maybe they glaze over, maybe they close up (noticing body language can be very helpful here), maybe they look angry or confused. They may stop relating to you as a person and just put you in a box of “salesperson” “parent” or “boss”. Sometimes this can be so painful, people try to ignore it and hope it gets better. It usually gets worse! Anyone who has been a parent knows the feeling of lecturing a child way past the point of rapport, knowing how ineffective you are, yet not being able to stop yourself!
Instead, stop what you are trying to do, acknowledge to yourself and maybe the other person that you’ve lost it, and try to reestablish your connection. Sometimes acknowledgment alone will reconnect you, sometimes not. Sometimes going back to common ground and searching for where you can connect, sometimes opening up to the heart connection where you have compassion for them or their situation, sometimes using humor, or sometimes even physically matching their posture (Example: if they are sitting, sit down also). If you can’t reconnect, you are better off ending the conversation than trying to continue if you’ve lost rapport. If it’s possible, you can try establishing a fresh connection on another day.
Over the next week become more aware of your connections and ask yourself the following questions:
- How do I know when the connection is good? Where do I feel that in my body?
- What are the ways I notice when rapport is broken?
- What worked for me in getting the connection back?