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  • Writer's pictureDavid A. Schneider

8 Ways to Create Rapport

Updated: Mar 25

Why do some people just get along with each other while others just can't stand each other?

You sure have seen those special types of people, those rare few who seem to connect with everybody around them. It all seems to happen so easily and automatically for them. And certainly, you have also already met someone in your life with whom you could feel an instant connection without any effort.

Then there are other situations when you really want to get along with your new boss or land a deal with that client but for some strange reason, you both do not seem to connect anywhere. Even though you try hard to like the other person and also try to appear likable to them it doesn’t “click” with them.

So what is the difference between those situations when we are easily connecting with people or failing at it? The answer lies in whether you know how to build a rapport with someone or not. Rapport is essential to building good relationships with others and making new connections. Whether you are working in sales or any other field of business, getting along with other people will always be an important task.

Contrary to common belief, rapport isn’t something magical or god-given. Instead, it can be created on purpose and used in professional settings to improve your results. In this article, you will learn exactly how to do that.

What is Rapport?

If you work in sales, chances are slim that you have yet to hear of building rapport and what it is. In some cases, it has even become a sort of buzzword, especially among sales training programs. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, rapport is defined as having a friendly and harmonious relationship with another person. It is characterized by mutual understanding, agreement, or empathy.

create rapport
Some people are easy to connect with - others not.

While this definition makes sense and is easy to understand, building rapport in real-life situations is less understood. Instead in most situations it happens simply by chance and is afterward declared as a mere coincidence, a good feeling, or a good deal. In other cases when rapport building fails, the description of the situation might sound more like: “That was just a strange guy” or “They just aren't ready to buy”.

You can imagine rapport as an invisible connection that either gets established between two or more people or not. If it is created successfully, we feel sympathy for the other person, we are much more likely to trust them or buy from them.

If rapport fails to be created, we often have the uncertain gut feeling that something is wrong with the other person or what they tell us. We are thus mentally alarmed deep in our subconscious, which often results in wanting the other person to leave the scene as soon as possible.

Especially in sales, building rapport is an essential tool to increase your chances of success.

Zig Ziglar famously said: “a sale is a transfer of feelings from one person to the other.” 

Rapport is thus a major factor in how many deals you will close, but it is also an indicator of how well you will get along with people in general. While there is no surefire approach that will guarantee rapport, there are several tactics you could use to highly increase your chances of getting rapport.

Here we will show you 8 proven ways to create rapport that are the most effective:


1. People like people, like themselves

How to build Rapport
The more we have in common, the better our Rapport.

Think for a moment about a person you really liked from the first moment on. 

That kind of person with whom you just connected from the start without any effort on either side. Why exactly did you like them, what was it that made you feel good about them inside? 

And then think for a moment about a person you totally dislike. You know, the guy who has never done any actual harm to you or otherwise, but you just can't stand this person anyway because there is something about him or her that upsets you. What makes you feel that way about the other person? Why do you dislike them exactly? And what makes you like one person but dislike the other?  Where exactly lies the border between those two extremes?

Chances are high that with the person you like there is something you have in common

Commonality creates a bond between us and another person. What exactly we have in common is less important. It can literally be anything from our lifestyle, looks, personal choices, or more: 

  • We have been to the same school, 

  • We like the same kind of music

  • We share the same political opinion

  • Their gestures are similar to ours

  • We have a similar hairstyle

  • We grew up in the same city

  • We like the same brand

  • We worked in the same industry

  • etc.

Such details allow us to instantly connect with the other person. While with people we naturally dislike, it is usually the opposite:

  • They grew up on the other side of the country

  • They like the other football team

  • They dress differently

  • They have a different opinion on politics/religion or similar

  • They express things differently

  • They have different preferences

  • etc.

The saying “birds of the same feather flock together” is very true and important when it comes to building rapport. Another way of expressing this phenomenon is people like people like themselves

If we meet someone new for the first time, we unconsciously start to analyze every detail about that person within the first few seconds. We carefully observe what the other person talks about, how he or she behaves, and how we should respond to it accordingly. It is almost like two dogs when they see and sniff each other to get to know the other dog, only a little more cultivated. 

Subconsciously our brain tries to detect if the other person can be harmful to us or if the situation could be threatening. This is a survival procedure deeply implanted into the reptile part of our brain, which has a strong influence on us and how we behave even to this day.

By showing similarity with the other person, you signal them subconsciously that you are a friend, and that in turn brings their mental alertness and defenses down.

To talk about a topic you and the other person are both enthusiastic about, or to have had experiences in common like growing up in the same neighborhood, knowing the same people, or sharing the same hobby can create instant connections between you and them. 

Thus is it important to look for something you and the other person could have in common.

The best way to find common ground is by asking lots of questions. People love to talk about themselves, and this allows you to discover many details about their lives so far, their values, expectations, and more. Open-ended questions work very well to get the other person

  • What is it you like about xyz?

  • How did you feel when receiving xyz?

  • How come you know so much about this?

  • What led you to make that decision?

  • How do you feel about xyz?

  • What would be an ideal solution for you?

  • Why did you choose to do xyz?

  • etc.

Look for a common topic that you can relate to, or look for any emotional signals that stir up something that you and the other person can both agree on. The more things you both have in common, can agree on, or share the same opinion on, the easier it will be to establish rapport.


2. Mirroring To Create Rapport

buil rapport with someone
If movements from our bodies are similar, a subconscious connections gets formed.

What can you do if you seem to have no common ground in the conversation with the other person? Even in this case, there is plenty that can help you at least achieve a certain level of similarity between you and the prospect to establish a connection. 

Next time you are in public, observe two people who get along well with each other. For example, look at a couple who has been married for years or some good friends who have already been together since their childhood. If you come to observe such people in a public scene, you will find interesting patterns appearing:

If one person drinks from a cup, so does the other

One of them leans forward in the chair, the other leans forward too

One person starts to fold their arms, and the other person does the same.

Their bodies are in perfect synchrony most of the time, like dancers performing on stage. The interesting thing about this mirroring is that it happens totally unconsciously - none of the observed persons would admit that they behaved like their counterparts. 

They are not even aware of it, but it still seems to be some kind of a bonding process that links their movements and gestures to each other. Thus being in rapport is not just things we say or talk about, but it happens also on a non-verbal behavior level. This mirroring body language helps us to get connected with someone else. We can therefore purposefully use this bonding behavior to build rapport with the other person.

If we start acting like a mirror image of the other person, this again subconsciously signals that we are like them. Thereby we signal through our body language that we are like them, which leads their subconscious mind to be more open towards us and not perceive us as a threat. This little mental trick will help you to create a better rapport with that person.

Watch how the other person behaves, how they breathe, how they move their arms, their gestures, the position of their feet, and all other kinds of bodily activities. 

Does the other person lean forward in the chair? Then you should lean forward too

Are their feet in a straight position to each other or crossed? Bring your feet in a similar position. Is the person sitting casually in the chair or straight up? You should sit in a similar position. What is the gesture the other person is using, are their arms always moving when they speak? By now you probably already know what you should do.

Pay attention to gestures, the breathing pattern, and the pasture of the other person. All these details can be used to establish a connection. According to research the words we use in a conversation only make up about 7% of our emotions and attitudes. Body language in comparison makes up around 55% of the impression and feelings in a conversation while around 38% is caused by our tone of voice (more on this in the next tactic). This makes clear that if you do not use non-verbal communication like body language to your advantage, you are clearly missing out on creating an impact for the other person.

Even if mirroring feels a little awkward the first time, this form of bonding can cause you to connect with a lot of people much easier than you normally would.

Mirroring signals to their subconscious mind that you obviously must be a friend as you even move in the same way. Thereby this makes us appear more trustworthy. When performing mirroring for the first time, many people worry that their counterparts might detect what is going on and what they are trying to do. It sounds reasonable since you are purposefully acting like their mirror image. 

But for some strange reason, this mirroring behavior will not be noticed at all. Like the good friends who are not a bit aware that they behave so similarly, your counterpart will have no clue what is going on. Instead, the chances are high that she will subconsciously like you instead of being like her. And that can be a huge advantage for building rapport. When you begin to do this for the first time, it might feel a bit awkward I admit. But as soon as you have done it a few times, mirroring will start to come naturally and help you to make better connections with other people.


3. Tonality And Speech Patterns

create rapport
On the phone, verbal mirroring is often the only option you have.

Being like the other person helps us greatly to build rapport. There is more you can mirror than just the body language of the other person. The tonality of the voice is also a very unique characteristic of a person. So is the speed and way of talking. The next best thing to do in a conversation if there is no common topic to talk about is to mimic the other person's tone of voice. Mimicking the tone of voice is much easier and can happen on a more subtle level than mimicking other forms of behavior. Therefore you should always try first to adjust your way of speaking. When you are having a conversation pay close attention to details such as:

  • Is the voice loud or quiet? 

  • Does the other person talk fast or slowly? 

  • Are they quickly getting to the point of things or are they talking about every detail first? 

  • Is the tone of their voice soft and gentle or harsh?

  • Are they talking in a high-pitched voice or is their voice in a low tone?

  • Are they talking in short sentences or are they using a complicated structure to express their ideas?

By matching our counterpart's tone of voice we are again signaling to their subconscious that we are like them and thus we must be a friend. It also brings mental defenses down and can help other people to open up. This form of verbal mirroring is actually the same as mirroring body language, only on a different level. The effects will also be quite similar, meaning you increase your chances of being perceived as trustworthy, honest and to be liked by your counterpart. By combining body language and tonality, you can create a powerful bonding process without anyone noticing what is happening.

That means if the prospect talks fast and with a high-pitched voice, you talk fast and with a high-pitched voice too

If the prospect talks slowly and with a deep tone of voice, you do the same.

If the other person takes a deep breath before responding, you take a deep breath too before starting your next sentence.

Like mirroring body language, mirroring tonality strongly affects us subconsciously. The way we speak is connected to how we think and organize our thoughts. Our way of speaking also leaves clues as to whether that person is more linked to visual stimuli or more kinesthetic, for example. What makes mirroring the tonality very useful is that you can also do it over the phone, or nowadays in online conferences. This tactic for building rapport is therefore not restricted to personal meetings only and gives you a much broader field of use for building rapport with other people.


4. Have a Solid Appearance

Appearance to build rapport
People shouldn't judge on appearance. But they do.

We all know that you shouldn’t judge people based on their looks.

But here's a fun fact: People will judge you based on your looks.

It is better to get realistic rather than have wishful thinking of a politically correct society. 

The world isn’t always like we would like it to be. Your looks matter, and people will create their first impression largely based on what they see in the first fraction of a second.

This process also happens subconsciously and automatically - we all do it and we cannot help it. Our brains are wired that way and send us signals in milliseconds about whether the other person might be appropriate for us or not.

For example, if an attractive person of the opposite sex enters the room - how long does it take for you to notice? 2 seconds? 1 second? You recognize it in an instant and completely automatic.

The same happens when you enter a room as a businessperson or salesperson.

People notice you and make judgments on what they see in a timeframe that doesn’t even allow the blink of an eye. Therefore, make sure you are properly dressed especially when meeting someone for the first time. If you are not sure what to wear, it is advisable to always be a little better dressed than the other person. It is better to be overdressed than under-dressed

You can always take off your tie, roll up your sleeves, or leave the jacket in the car.

But it is impossible to hide your flip-flops or that Hawaiian shirt you are wearing if the meeting happens to be not as casual as you expected it to be. Clearly, there are also no excuses for a lack of personal hygiene! Make sure that for example your fingernails are cut especially when you're presenting something to a client with your hands.

The same goes for bad breath or all similar things that might happen but are a clear deal-breaker. These awkward things must be avoided at all costs when you want to create rapport with someone. In short: Be well-dressed, look good, and smell good. A solid outer appearance will make building rapport with someone much easier from the start and give you the benefit of the doubt in case other people are unsure how to feel about you.


5. Find Common Ground

creating rapport
There is always something you can agree on.

When meeting someone new for the first time, you might think there is not really much you and the other person might have in common. The first few sentences might even feel a bit awkward. However, don’t think that there is no common ground just because you couldn’t find a connection during the small talk.

To really get to know the other person we have to dig a little deeper. By constantly and deliberately asking questions you might find out certain details about that person that help you form a connection. Most people love to talk about themselves, their points of view, and their experiences. Ask about their background, what they did before, how they ended up here, and similar things. The more you can demonstrate an interest in them, the more will they open up and relax. This gives you an even better chance of gaining certain information.

Maybe you both do yoga. Or do you both have relatives outside the country? Maybe you have been to the same holiday destination. Or you both have children. Or you both have pets and love animals. How are they spending their weekend? Do they also enjoy swimming or do they prefer hiking in the mountains? Do they attend seminars? What seminars have they been to? Or do they enjoy reading? What kinds of books are they reading right now? Is it an author you also like?

Based on a short introduction it is easy to assume you won’t have a lot of things in common. Try to get to know the other person a little better. The easiest way to achieve this is to share some of your stories and experiences first - this usually invites the other person to reciprocate and share some of their experiences. The more things are mentioned in the conversation, the more chances you will get to find something in common.


6. Create Common Ground 

What if you and the other person have absolutely nothing in common?

What if there is not a single thing you can agree on or that helps you to connect?

Well, then just make or create something you have in common.

This tactic is all about creating shared or similar experiences with the other person. You could attend the same seminar, watch the same sports events they mentioned, dine in the same restaurants, and then have a conversation about how it was for your next meeting! You can also look for things in their professional life that create commonality, such as working together in a team, in the same industry, or trying to solve a similar problem. 

This tactic works particularly well for long sales cycles and is a very sophisticated approach to building rapport. To make it work, we first have to find out certain details about the other person. Look at things like their hobbies, places of interest, taste in music, favorite sports team, or anything we could look up and experience ourselves later on.

If you asked enough open-ended questions during the first conversation, you should have gotten at least some information that will help you to find what the other person likes or is interested in.

This tactic thus only works for a second meeting with the other person, but nevertheless, it can be very powerful.

If they recommended only a movie or a nice place for hiking on the weekend, and you actually followed up on it and have done the same thing - this already enhances your status in the next conversation and helps you to create a bond with the other person.

Eventually, this also makes people feel good about themselves and their recommendations. It can thus be a major step in building rapport with the other person.


7. Empathy and Sincere Interest

creating rapport in sales
There is no way to fake interest in the other person for rapport.

A sincere and honest interest in the other person is one of the major foundational pillars for having a good conversation and thus for building rapport. The problem is, what if the person is just not that interesting? In such a case, what could you do to create a bond with that person?

It helps not to judge a book by its cover and try your best to create empathy for your counterpart. Try to actively listen to what the person has to say, and see the world from their perspective. Active listening means listening without thinking about your answer and what you are going to say. We are not preparing an answer while the other person is talking but instead fully trying to understand the meaning and reasons why something is being said. Just sit and acknowledge sincerely whatever the other person is saying. This is where your social skills and empathy come into play.

Open-ended questions can help the other person to open up and explain their thoughts to us. Look for anything that sparks the other person’s emotions and that makes their eyes light up. Have respect for their convictions even if you do not fully support their view. The more passion you can ignite in the other person, the easier it will be to build rapport. Ask what exactly they like about those things, and what they dislike about others, and create empathy as best as you can.

Also, pay attention to your body language while actively listening. Be open, keep eye contact, and have a smile on your face. If it is appropriate to the situation, you can bring a joke or some kind of humor into the conversation to soften up intense conversations.


8. Share Their Pain

One of the most effective and fastest ways of building rapport with another person is to look for potential pain points the other person is experiencing. Pain in a conversational sense can actually take on many different forms. The other person might experience frustrations or problems in her work life. It might be financial problems, economic pressures, or certain processes that don’t really work as they should.

Especially in a sales situation, many customers don’t feel heard or understood and might be looking for a way of expressing their problems. If you are openly addressing such issues this might create a strong bond as the other person finally gets heard. However, don’t try to justify bad processes or problems in such a scenario but instead show understanding and acknowledge whatever information will be given to you. Let them know you feel their needs and care for their situation. Even might criticize yourself or your organization harshly, it pays to stay professional and try to be helpful - even if all you can do is to take on the information and forward it to the right department. 

This tactic can also be used to find potential selling points when a potential client is buying from a competitor. Ask which things take up a lot of time and energy and look for potential ways to solve them better. Maybe there are challenges, frustrations, or roadblocks ahead that can’t be solved with the current products or methods they are using.

Using Rapport In Your Daily Life

Making yourself as much like the other person as you can and showing a high level of empathy will usually be the best chance at creating this seemingly “magic” to create rapport.

This includes your body language, your tone of voice, facial expressions, and all further details of a conversation. You might want to prepare certain advantageous topics for the conversation in advance to really maximize your chances of building rapport with the other person.

Using only one of these tactics can certainly help already, but to make sure you get the most out of it I suggest you try to combine them and use as many of these tactics as you can at once in a conversation. Anyway, be aware that there simply exists no “magnetic field for humans” that you could activate and be the other person’s best friend every time. 

Some people will also be more receptive to such behavior, while in other situations, it might hardly change anything. Try it in your own daily life and see what works best for you. Depending on your own personality you might be more comfortable with some of these tactics than with others.

One final hint: you can also use these tactics in your private life as well  ;)


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