Conversation Skills, Rapport

Rapport – The Must Have Skill For Any Good Conversationalist

three people in a conversationWhen we converse with others, the actual words we use only accounted for about 7% of the perceived communication by the other person or people we are talking to. This is incredible to think when most people seem to talk so much! So where is the other 93% of our communication coming from?

Experts surmise that in actual fact, a massive 55% of our communication with other people is through our body language, while 38% is from our tone of voice. This proves that in fact, our perception of others and how we feel about them and how we feel in their presence is of huge importance. To read more about this concept you can see this article in ubiquity.acm.org.

We will leave the discussion of body language and tone of voice for another article and primarily discuss the importance of the concept of rapport in communication.

What is rapport?

Rapport is the feeling in which one can create with others that enable people to feel in harmonious sync with you like they know you and you are on the same page. When a person feels in rapport with another then there is a sense of unison, understanding, and affinity.

Why is rapport important?

Being able to create rapport with others is a skill that anyone can master. However, it certainly does come more naturally to some than others. Being able to create a sense of rapport with others is useful in all kinds of relationships from both the business kind to the intimate kind.

Being able to put people at ease, make them feel comfortable in your presence and feel like they like and trust you in a cornerstone skill to learn in any kind of persuasion.

The Skills of Rapport

There are numerous skills in being able to create rapport with others, from basic to advanced. Here we will discuss a few of the more commonly used rapport techniques to get you started.

Mirroring

Mirroring is a technique whereby you assume a similar body language to the person you are conversing with. The concept is that you are following them like a mirror reflection. for example, if you are sitting opposite each other and your partner reaches for their glass of water with their right hand then you would also reach for your glass of water, but with your left hand. This is similar to the reflection of a movement that would be observed in a mirror.

When two people are unconsciously in rapport they do this kind of behavior without realizing. Knowing the skills of rapport we can then help to create the feelings of rapport by doing the same.

With all rapport techniques that use body language, it is important to not over-do it and to not do it at exactly the same time as the other person or with awkward movement or in a jarring way. The key is subtlety and naturalness. When it comes to the timing of movements, it is recommended to repeat the action (or similar) of your partner anywhere within 5-45 seconds after they have completed their action. It’s not necessary to be so precise or count, but rather to make it as natural as possible and in sync with the overall conversation. It also helps to mix up the timings; so one movement you may repeat after 5 seconds, another after 20seconds, a third after 8 seconds and so forth. This is much more natural behaviour.

Matching

Matching is a very similar technique to mirroring, except with matching you are matching their movement with the same body parts. For example, if we go back to our glass of water example; when the person reaches for their glass of water with their right hand, we would also reach for our glass of water with our right hand. The representation is not a complete mirror reflection, but it is with the same body part.

In some instances in the conversation, it will be more natural and appropriate to use mirroring, while in others it will fit more to use a matching technique.

Tempo

Tempo is the rate at which a person moves or speaks. Some people naturally speak very fast, while others a much slower in their speech and movement.

If you are a naturally fast speaker and you are also speaking to someone who likes to talk fast then the chances are you will much more naturally be able to establish a good sense of rapport with them. However, for the fast speaker, if they are in a conversation with someone who speaks very slowly then it is important to slow your speech down to a similar speed and tempo of the other person.

People who speak very slowly often find it difficult to keep up with a fast talker and can easily find themselves slipping out of rapport. This can often be hard for fast talkers to do. One good way to counter this is by inserting pauses into your conversation to help slow your conversation down.

The same also goes for your body movements. If your partner generally moves more slowly and with a sense of purpose then try to also do the same.

Tonality

Matching a person’s tonality, not exactly, but in a similar way will also help them to feel a greater sense of rapport with you on an unconscious level.

Take note of the pitch and cadence of their voice tone and try to incorporate a similar aspect into your own when talking to them.

Golden bubble technique

The golden bubble technique is one of the more advanced techniques of rapport and can be very effective.

When in conversation with someone, you will no doubt have noticed that for some reason you can pick up a sense of the other person and maybe even perceive a warmth from them or a closeness.

Scientists have affirmed that we as humans do indeed pick up on ‘energy’ from other people. With this in mind, it can be possible to create a sense of warmth and comfort in others by imagining yourself and them inside a golden bubble together while you are talking. By doing this it creates a feeling of closeness and comfort in you, which the other person will be able to unconsciously pick up on during the conversation and start to feel similar feelings themselves.

Summary

There are many skills of rapport and it certainly is an important aspect of communication to master. For me, it is certainly one of the most interesting and fun skill-sets to work with.

Start to practice these skills of rapport while you are talking with others and soon you will be be surprised at the great results you can create.