Tuesday 5 May 2015

Keep Calm and Build Rapport

I was asked recently to run a training session at a company that was going through a great deal of change. Many of the delegates had been told they would have to reapply for their jobs and most had been told they had to attend the training session. Morale was low and looking at the body language and facial expressions of those sitting in front of me, it was clear that learning was the last thing on their minds. What options were open to me to turn things around, to make the session I had planned into a positive and beneficial one for those attending?

We all face difficult conversations at times, whether with our children, parents, or partners at home at work with colleagues, employees or customers at work. Conversations don’t always go as we’d like, or reach the best outcome and that’s because often the conversation happens before rapport is in place.

Rapport is a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned intuitively understand each other's feelings or ideas and communicate well.  It’s that feeling of ‘getting on’ or ‘hitting it off’ with someone which sometimes comes naturally but more often than not has to be built. The good news is that it can be built quite quickly once you know how

1. Match the mood
Watch and consciously match the other person’s posture and movements; listen and match the speed, pace and volume of their speech to increase rapport. Back in my training room, I simply acknowledged that I was aware that there was a degree of uncertainty in the business and that some of the delegates might be feeling less than enthusiastic about the day.

2. Ask questions that are positive, non-specific and easy to agree with
An example I might have used would be, “I know some of you are wondering how much you’ll learn from this training, aren’t you?”

3. Use metaphors and stories
Anecdotes and metaphorical stories that have a similar structure as the message you want to convey, but a different content, are a great way to communicate a similar point in a way that allows the other person to make sense of it using their own images, experiences and ideas.

Rapport means being able to relate to others in a way that creates a climate of trust and understanding, and that’s a great place to influence positive change in any context.