The Fine Art of Rapport Building

Prof. Ayaz A Shafi, Associate Professor, IQ City United World School of Business, Kolkata

Often enough we hear “experts” talk about rapport building and all kinds of methods and techniques are talked about – how you shake hands, the smile, choice of words etc. However, most of these are in the nature of “hacks” – short-cuts. I have always maintained that “hacks” are like instant coffee – they lack the necessary strength – and the effect dissipates rather quickly. Whether you are in an interview room or the board room, whether you or your idea is accepted depends entirely on how you connect with the people that you are addressing. What we forget about is that connecting with others is not about us, it’s about “them” – the people that we are trying to connect with. How do they relate to what you say? How do they read your body language? How do they pace up to your pace? What we forget about is people have behavioral styles and approaches that are distinct ad unique. Some of us are extroverted. Others may be introverted. Some are focused on task, achievements and results. Others may be more concerned about the sentiments and opinions of people around them. While a firm “power- handshake” is what will work with some, others may be more for a short sharp business-like handshake. Still others may not want a handshake at all! I know of a number of people who would want to engage in general chit-chats before getting into a structured business discussion. If you don’t engage at the personal level, they may not be interested in business conversations at all! While there are others who are very sharply and clearly focused on business and nothing personal – including simple things like the health of the family – is to be referred to. It all depends on the kind of behavioral style the individual may have. Rapport building will depend on two key elements –
  1. Your ability to understand the behavioral style of the person that you are interacting with
  2. Your ability to pace and adapt your own behavioral style to suit the other person’s style and approach
You start by trying to understand your own behavioral style. Self-Awareness is the first step. That’s also at the heart of Emotional Intelligence.