9 Tips for Building Rapport

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Rather than following suggested guidelines, which I am sure are readily available on this subject, I have rather tried to identify the things that I feel are effective when building rapport with people based on my own style and experience. I would hope that they would be of some benefit to you.

1. Don’t play the sizing up game

When two people meet, especially for the first time, there is an unspoken game that gets played. It is usually based on comparison and estimation of the other person. Often this is around establishing a personal sense of security (or lack thereof) in the interaction that will follow.

Don’t play the game – humility takes people by surprise, it catches them off-guard. What is humility? It is an accurate estimation of self (not to be confused with an under estimation of self). Humility and confidence can and should go hand in hand. Confidence is understanding the power of your uniqueness to impact another persons life. It is not based on the notion that you are better than the other person, but that you can uniquely add value to their lives.

2. There is nothing people are more interested in talking about than themselves, so let them

This only requires two skills: Listening and asking questions. In the early stages of interaction with someone don’t allow for dead time. Asking the right questions paves the way to a meaningful interaction.

3. Use humour – appropriately

You don’t have to be good at telling jokes to appropriately and effectively use humour when interacting with people. Humour comes naturally when you don’t take yourself too seriously. Honestly – we are all rather strange creatures – draw from knowing that about yourself. Allow yourself to be the punch-line of your own jokes. It’s the safest way to go, and will endear you to the harshest cynic. Humour makes people feel comfortable.

4. Understand that no matter who you are dealing with, somewhere in their lives they are vulnerable

When dealing with influential or difficult people, the fact is that at the end of the day they are still just people – vulnerable, and very possibly unsatisfied and unfulfilled, at least in some area of their lives. Being aware of this should fundamentally change the way in which we relate to them: our interactions with people become sacred, as we honour the fact that we are able to make a difference in their lives.

5. Love and believe in people

At times this may seem hard to do. I once heard someone say that if we were able to read peoples’ life stories, we would be able to forgive them more easily. It is amazing how naturally rapport follows when we love and believe in people.

6. Make people feel good about themselves

This often flies in the face of the way in which many people interact. Treating people well does not give them the upper hand. On the contrary, it gives you the upper hand. In the long run saying the right things earns you the privilege of being able to speak into their lives. We can all find something to compliment someone on, however frivolous. The difference between a compliment and flattery is that a compliment intends to give, flattery intends to get something back from the other person. Motive determines its sincerity.

7. Body language

Much has been emphasised with regard to matching and mirroring body language and voice as a tool to build rapport. However this can get silly when overdone. Keep your posture open and attentive as a rule.

8. Dress and appearance

This should be kept appropriately professional, without becoming drab and boring. Everything about you speaks to the quality of life another person would want to be around. I like to be noticed, but not remembered as a clown!

9. Rules of engagement

I’ve heard it said that all relationships are based on mutual hero worship in one way or another. Seek to identify these areas as they relate to each other and play off them. Remember that you have limited opportunities to genuinely connect with someone before you are written off as just another person that they have met. Especially in the corporate world, people are continually in and out of meetings, being introduced to any number of new people on a daily basis. We spend so much time skimming the surface when we relate that the chances of being remembered are rare. The golden rule of engagement for me is that if I can touch another person’s life more deeply and meaningfully than the multiple encounters they have with other people, I have earned rapport.

Mark Holtshousen

Mark Holtshousen is a leading Executive Coach in private practice. His select clientele constitute key leaders and rising stars across industry sectors nationally. Mark has been involved in the field of human potential for over 15 years, and is currently regarded as one of the leading Executive and Life Coaches in South Africa. His education and experience include both ministry and business, with an impressive international track record as a conference speaker and author. Utilising this experience, Mark transitioned into the field of Executive Coaching, working for Cycan (Pty) Ltd, a leadership solutions company. This allowed him to uniquely facilitate transformation, performance, and development in leaders and organisations across industry sectors. Following on from the significant impact of his coaching, he has transitioned into private practice to take on a limited and select clientele. This will allow him to maximise his impact by focusing on key leaders and rising stars nationally. Mark holds an ACMC certification from the International Meta-Coach Foundation. He is also a member of COMENSA (Coaching and Mentoring of South Africa) and INS Africa (Institute of Neuro-Semantics Africa). Mark currently coaches high-potential and high-ranking individuals in companies across industry sectors. His style is marked by a profound ability to build rapport with individuals across age, race, gender, and roles. He defines his areas of specialty as “Passion, Purpose, and Power – creating a life that matters”. Mark resides in Johannesburg, and also operates from Cape Town, South Africa. His clients include Executive Leadership in companies such as Vodacom, WSP, Deneyes Reitz, De Beers and Virgin Mobile SA. Mark is also a regular contributor to CEO Magazine. References/ testimonials are available on request. Introductory appointments by referral only.

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