Six Essential Skills for Building and Maintaining Rapport

Being able to get into rapport with other people isn't just a key for successful influence, it's also one of the most enjoyable skills you can learn. read more...

Written By Kevin Watson

On September 21, 2016

Six Essential Skills for Building and Maintaining Rapport

Sep 21, 2016Coaching Conversations

Kevin Watson

Kevin Watson

Director & Lead Coach

Have you ever had the experience of being with someone who you just click with?

The kind of situation where this person seems like an old friend, even though you may be meeting for the first time?
This is an example of what psychologists call rapport.
Being able to build and maintain rapport with other people isn’t just a key for successful influence, it’s also one of the most fun, enjoyable and relaxing skills you can learn.
After all, people simply like to be around people who are like them!


You want to work with people who you like and have an easy rapport with.Mike White


Building Rapport Skills

You may think that being in rapport is natural and spontaneous, something that cannot be forced.
However, there are a set of skills you can learn that will enhance rapport and greatly improve your ability to communicate effectively.
As you pay attention to the way you relate to others, you’ll find you can refine your rapport skills by seeing, hearing, sensing and then matching the other person’s language, speech rate, tonality, breathing and energy level.
With this focus of attention, you’ll notice those aspects that are most important to the other person, enabling you to flex your style whilst rapidly building and maintaining trusted relationships.


Especially when you’re working so closely with people and you have to develop intense relationships, it’s great when you have a relationship and a rapport with them.Dominic Sherwood


Building Rapport in Detail

Let’s take a look at six ways to build rapport in a little more detail:

1. Language

We all have one primary sense, whether it is visual, auditory or kinesthetic, that dominates our perception of the world.
Be good at spotting which modality other people use and match them to build rapport quickly and easily. For example:

  • if someone is in a visual modality, his or her language will be dominated by words that express what they see, such as “the car is red with a white soft top and a huge back seat
  • whereas the person whose primary sense is auditory will describe the car in a very different way, such as “it sounds like a lion roaring when you start the engine
  • whilst the person most attuned to their feelings will notice “the smooth soft sensation of the leather seats and the warm firm feeling when they hold the steering wheel

2. Speech Rate:

Many people find that the speech rate is the easiest thing to pace initially. Listen to the rate of people’s speech and pace it when talking with them. After a short while, you’ll find that you can do this without even thinking about it, like riding a bike or driving a car.
After a short while, you’ll find that you can do this without even thinking about it, like riding a bike or driving a car.

3. Posture:

Posture is so important when building rapport.
For example, sit upright when on the phone. This gives you a greater focus and enables you to really concentrate on what the other person is saying.
Alternatively, standing raises your energy level and this will come across as you’re talking.

4. Matching:

When matching is done elegantly, it is out of consciousness for the other person. However, a few notes of caution are appropriate:

  • matching is not the same as mimicry. It should be subtle and respectful
  • mirroring can build a deep sense of trust quickly, so take responsibility to use it ethically

5. Pace, Pace, Pace……Lead:

Pacing to lead is one of the keys to influencing people.
It refers to meeting them in their map of the world (pacing) and then taking them where you want them to go (leading).
Rapport is a basic, behavioural signal that you have met someone in their map of the world.

6. Liking:

If you do not like the person you are talking with it will come across at some level. We all have something in common and commonality builds rapport. Look for it and you will find it.
If you attempt to gain rapport with people while actually disliking them you will never get the rapport you are aiming for.

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Get in the right frame of mind and remember to have fun as you are learning this new skill.
*revised post, first published on 8th September 2014

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