10 ways to build rapport with people

Building rapport and engaging with people — whether it's in person or online — takes practice. Much of it is based on intuition. It's about creating a bond, link, connection, and understanding. And for entrepreneurs, rapport is about influence, relationships, and sales.  

The goal is to get others thinking, feeling, reacting, and involved. Business professionals and volunteers at the PTA need rapport-building skills. It’s an art and skill in communication that's used daily in all of our relationships.

Here are 10 tips to help you get in sync with others and develop rapport:

1. Be approachable. In person, carry yourself in such a way that is easy-going, friendly, and confident. When you're online, have a welcoming and intriguing profile. Use an avatar of your smiling face :)

2. Ask good questions. People love to talk about themselves. Asking questions and paying attention to the answers helps you learn more about the other person and shows that you have a genuine interest in them. The key is in your follow-up. This is how they'll know you are truly catching their details.

3. Use their name. In person, the sweetest sound to anyone is the sound of their own name. Sprinkle it into a conversation. Online, using Twitter as an example, if the person's name is not in their handle, click on their profile and get their name. It will take only a few seconds but sends that wonderful message of, “I care; I took the time to find out.”

4. Understand that you can still have rapport with someone even though you disagree. If you don't see eye-to-eye, you can be respectful and appreciate differing opinions. Communication and relationships are based on compromise. With both in person and online communication, you don't have to agree. A simple acknowledgement is usually sufficient — and appreciated.

5. Stay upbeat. No one likes to be around a complaining, negative individual with a victim mentality. It's awfully difficult to connect and engage with people who are leaking poison. Be known for your positive attitude and willingness to help others (yes, even strangers). Remember, easy-going and approachable.

6. Discover the fine art of small talk. This will help in person and online — especially if you feel shy or nervous. Have a few “conversation starters” up your sleeve in case you run into a lull in a conversation. Always be looking for opportunities that connect you with others — it can be something as basic as enjoying the same sports team, having the same kind of SUV, or ordering the same lunch. Focus on similarities, not differences.

7. Notice how others handle information. This is especially important in live conversations. It may be at a networking breakfast, on Skype, or a u-Stream video. Does the other person like “the big picture” or do they prefer the fine details? Follow their lead.

8. Learn communication modalities. If someone is a visual communicator, they will say things like, “Looks good to me” or “I get the picture.” An auditory person will say things like, “That sounds good to me” or “Listen to this.” Pay attention to the clues the person drops you (in person or online) and use their modality. It will bring a subliminal sense of comfort to them and instantly builds rapport. These “modality clues” will be evident in your live conversations and in social networking. If you fail to pick up on their communication clues, one person will be speaking Spanish and the other will be speaking French. (This approach is the core of NLP, NLP-Neurolinguistic Programming).

9. Pick up on favorite words and phrases. In a subtle way, intersperse these words into your conversation. This will help you bond. It also brings a sense of comfort to the individual you're speaking with — in person or online.

10. Watch and listen to people. Pay attention to those you admire who seem to easily connect and engage with others, particularly strangers. Whether it's in person or online, observe the conversations, posts, and Tweets. What works for them? How do they break the ice and bond with others?  How do people respond to them?

Rapport is about a two-way connection. How do you know that's happened? You experience a genuine sense of trust and respect with another human being.  You easily engage with them, regardless of how different the two of you may be. There’s a true sense of comfort. That's rapport.