Building and Maintaining Rapport

“Rapport is the ability to enter someone else’s world to make them feel better that you understand them, and that you have a strong common bond.” – Tim Robins

I find myself drawn to men and women like myself. People I can identify with. Like-minded people. Positive, confident, outspoken (to a point). People who reflect me and I them. Finding people like yourself is not easy, but when you meet them you are instantly drawn to them; there is a connection of sorts, you feel relaxed around them and don’t need to add on any false pretenses just to fit in. You like and accept them for who they are and, in turn, they like and accept you for who you are.

I would like to share with you why it is important to build rapport and the benefits involved.

So why is it so important to build rapport? I can name three reasons for now:

  1. To create a positive connection.
  2. To build good relationships.
  3. To gain support for your ideas and proposals.

Create a positive connection

You may not see or know it at the time, but having a positive connection will definitely be in your stead in the future, some time. Even if you leave your company, make sure it is on a positive note – you never know when you may need to get in touch with that connection again and ask a favor. Or they may need a favor from you. People talk and remember different aspects of you as a person and, of course, the same applies to them in your eyes. Good connections prove to be good support and back-up when you need it. You may not know it but people watch your movements, listen to how you talk to people and how you interact in general.

Build good relationships

The ultimate goal in building relationships and connections is to connect with others and to get them thinking, feeling, reacting and involved. Rapport-building is an art and a skill used in daily communication in all relationships.

  • Be approachable – in person ensure you come across as easy-going, friendly and confident. Online, make sure your profile is welcoming and intriguing. Use an avatar or picture of your smiling face. When you write make sure your tone is not too harsh or too slack – you must sound approachable in your writing.
  • Ask good questions – people generally love to talk about themselves. Asking questions and paying attention to the answers helps you learn more about that person and shows that you are genuinely interested in them and what they have to say. Your follow-up is key, as this will show them that you are really taking in all the details. The key point is to take focus off yourself and keep it entirely on the person you are getting to know.
  • Use their name – think of how you feel when someone mentions you by name. It brings a smile to your face. The same applies to getting to know someone – whether in person or online, when you use their name you are showing you truly care and took the time to find out who they were. When writing their name, ensure you spell it correctly. Some names can be tricky so we need to get it right the first time.

Gain support for your ideas and proposals

Establishing rapport with people can open doors, create opportunities and lead to excellent relationships. Let people get to know you, what you are about, what you do, and what your strengths and capabilities are – you never know what the future may hold for you or for them if the tables are turned. So share your ideas and proposals and get their buy-in. It is amazing how powerful the spoken word is.

Robin Dreeke wrote a book called It’s Not all about “Me” – The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone. I would like to highlight some of the points he mentions:

  • Establish artificial time constraints – don’t overstay your welcome. Make the first contact a reasonable length of time, short and sweet if you like, and then excuse yourself. You can schedule a second appointment to meet and continue where you left off.
  • Accommodate non-verbals – ensure your body language reflects your genuine interest in the person you are meeting. Smile and be open – look relaxed and interested.
  • Slow your rate of speech – speaking slowly gives you more credibility. Pause every once in a while; sometimes those small silences create intrigue and a want to hear more.
  • Put aside your ego – put the other person’s wants, needs and perceptions of reality ahead of your own. What may not seem important to you is very important to them and they need to feel that.
  • Validate others – listen intently, be thoughtful and genuinely interested. Validate the other person’s thoughts and opinions. It is important.
  • Ask How? When? Why? – it is very hard to answer these questions with a simple yes or no. It encourages them to expand on their answer.
  • Connect with quid pro quo – sometimes it is hard for someone to open up and speak to you. It may take a little bit of information about yourself to get them to open up and enter into a conversation.
  • The gift of giving – this, together with putting your ego aside, is the cornerstone of building good relationships. Nothing is worse than someone so busy blowing their own trumpet – it can be quite off-putting and the other person becomes bored or disconnects completely.
  • Manage expectations – this is the best way to avoid disappointment. Take the other person as they are and accept them as they are. No one can be like you and that is what makes the world an interesting place.

Robin Dreeke reminds us that when dealing with people, we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity. That includes both you and me.

If you have the power to influence anyone at any time, that is a good trait to have. The only way on earth to influence people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it – and it is incredibly rewarding to give someone a smile on their face as they realise they get it.

To be persuasive we must be believable
To be believable we must be credible
To be credible we must be truthful
- Edward R. Murrow

Besides what I have shared above, here are a few more things to remember:

  • Don’t criticize, condemn or complain – many people, like myself, avoid people like that. We want to be amongst people who inspire us, uplift us, support us and compliment us. It does so much for the other person’s ego and sense of well-being.
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation – say thank you and mean it. People pick up on a false emotion – make sure your face, your body and your tone come across as honest and genuine for that person to connect with you.
  • Arouse in the other person an eager want – people are like sponges and enjoy being with someone who has something that they want, or aspire to being. Sharing your experiences and successes in the area they are interested in, and the road you travelled to achieve your dreams, encourages them to continue going forward and reaching their goals.
  • Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves – yes, we have been given two ears and one mouth and for a very good reason. We need to listen more and talk less. Make sure you keep eye contact, smile and nod every now and then to let the other person know you are interested in what they have to say.
  • Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely. When they feel important, they become more relaxed and open up to you easily.

“You don’t have to be a ‘person of influence’ to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they have taught me.”

Scott Adams

The quote above is so true. I am amazed at how I have influenced many a person, whether by speaking to me or coming into contact with something I have written. It is so rewarding to know that they were able to learn or get something from me, or something that I said, which enabled them to follow their dreams and reach their goals. That is true success.

What is your influence? What is your success? Go out there and make someone’s day and keep smiling.

Each year the breakout sessions at the Administrative Professionals Conference organize topics into general program categories called Tracks. One of this year’s Tracks calls for us to Leverage Connections, Communication, and Collaboration. Your ability to produce results is often based on your capacity to work effectively with a diverse group of colleagues. This track includes sessions on gaining insight into yourself and others, teamwork and collaboration, connecting across differences and more effective written communication. Learn more


This article first appeared in Executive Secretary Magazine, a global training publication and must read for any administrative professional. You can get a 30% discount when you subscribe through us. Visit the website at www.executivesecretary.com to find out more or to get your 30% discount email lbrazier@executivesecretary.com and tell them we sent you.

About the Author: Michele Thwaits is an Executive Assistant, Motivational speaker, Training, Coach and Mentor. Currently Executive Assistant to President and Head of Africa Cluster, Novartis, Michele speaks at many functions, conferences and seminars. She also conducts training workshops, & chairs secretarial seminars. Michele is a Member of Academy of Excellence & was an IYOTSA 2014 task team member. She has written articles for InTouch newsletter (PAFSA), TalkSA newsletter (IAAP), Career Success Magazine and A-Z publications.