Creating Rapport

Rapport is an emotional bond or connection between two or more individuals. Creating rapport is the art of bridging the gap between people.

It’s often said that opposites attract. This may work for the poles of a magnet, but not for humans. We say ‘birds of a feather stick together, and it’s true. People different to you may stimulate and intrigue for a while, but in the longer term like attracts like.

Moreover, You don’t have to like them to be in rapport with them, although a mutual liking obviously it helps.

The essence of building rapport is therefore to focus on what you have in common!

This is not how some people behave. They’re quick to point out their differences, thinking this makes them appear more interesting. Not so:

  • Find shared interests
  • Take an interest in the other person.

Help them to feel they are talking to someone with whom they have plenty in common, but don’t pretend to know anything you don’t and steer clear of empty promises. There’s no point in pretending you love golf and offering to give them a game if you don’t know an ‘eagle’ from any other sort of ‘birdie’.

Matching and Mirroring

Watch any pair who are getting on well, and what do you see? They take on each other’s characteristics. If one leans forward and smiles, so does the other. If one talks in a quiet tone, the other does too.  One smiles, nods, shakes his head and, guess what? The other does too.

They’re not deliberately mimicking each other. It’s just that when individuals get on well with each other, they tend to subconsciously adopt similar non-verbals and speech patterns.  Gently emulating these is a sure-fire way to improve the quality of your communication.

  • Match their posture – e.g. if they lean forward, sit back, stand up, cross their legs, etc., do the same without making it look too obvious.
  • Mirror their facial expression – if they smile, frown or wrinkle their nose etc. – calmly do the same.
  • Mirror their gestures – e.g. folding arms, shaking the head, scratching the chin, flicking the hair back, etc.
  • Mirror their breathing – observe the other person’s breathing patterns and gently bring yours into line.
  • Voice – match their pace of speech, pitch and volume. If the other person speaks rapidly, speed up. If they speak slowly, slow down.

Match their words and phrases and borrow their expressions. Feed their ideas back in slightly different words. One way is to ask a question, listen to their answer and then restate their reply:

You: ‘What made you buy a camper van?’

They: ‘Mainly the independence. I love to travel, and I don’t have to worry about finding a place to stay. It wasn’t cheap, but I reckon it will save me money in the long term.’

You: ‘You must save a fortune in hotel bills.’

They: ‘Yes, that’s right.’ (Thinks: I can tell we’re going to get along fine.)

This must be done skillfully, or they’ll think you are mimicking them. Do it subtly and you quickly put them at ease as well as showing that you are listening.


These techniques also work in reverse. If you want to withdraw from a conversation, deliberately mismatch. Turn away, adjust your body language so that it is different to theirs, look at your watch or mobile phone. They soon get the message! People in senior positions who have finished addressing a subordinate often do this very effectively.

Rapport creates a climate of trust, deepens friendships and facilitates relationships on every level. It is a skill well worth practising.

©David Lawrence Preston, 6.6.2016

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