Creating rapport in English
Establishing strong relationships is an important part of being successful in business, where it is important to have reliable partners, work in and manage teams etc. According to the Cambridge Dictionary good rapport is about, “having a good understanding of someone and an ability to communicate well with them.” When we’re using our second language, we can sometimes focus so much on our communication skills that we forget the bigger picture of relationship-building. Let’s look at some key features of creating rapport.
1. Be familiar with communication styles.
Do you know what kind of communication style you prefer? Do you have a tendency to focus on data and facts (an analytical style) or do you value emotions and emotional language (I feel that…), which is a more personal style? There seems to be four main styles of communicating: analytical, intuitive, personal and functional. The point is, if you recognise someone’s communication style and mirror it, you’re more likely to create a good rapport with them very quickly. The good news is that the person is also providing a good language model for you!
2. Listen actively
As you become more aware of different communication styles, you will normally become a much more active listener. This goes beyond listening to understand meaning (although this is still important): here we are talking about being fully present in the conversation (not checking your phone, for example). It means using filler phrases like ‘right’, ‘oh I see’, etc to show the other person that you are actively listening.
3. Be aware of body language
There has been a great deal of research on body language – or non-verbal communication. Some even claim that only a small percentage of communication is the words you speak and that the majority is in fact a mixture of body language and voice tonality. Understanding and then matching the other person’s body language is thus an effective way of establishing rapport. For example, if a person sits down and crosses their arms, it’s a good idea to do the same – practise doing this naturally, not simply copying the other person! Subconsciously, the other person will realise that you are on their side.
4. Create a feeling of commonality
You can create a feeling of commonality during a business meeting with a client or colleague by simply looking for common experiences with the person: maybe you both enjoy going on adventure holidays or watching the same sport. This can go a long way to establishing a connection with someone (and why not read more about how to do this from our post on the importance of small talk a few weeks ago?!). Establishing connections is about building relationships and ultimately building trust.
As a language school, it can be tempting to focus only on the linguistic elements of communication. This blog hopes to bring a deeper level of awareness to this fascinating theme and share some ideas which can be implemented immediately. Why not tell us your experience of communicating across cultures and the role of non-verbal communication?