Why you can’t afford to overlook the power of rapport

Building rapport is essential to establishing connections with colleagues and contacts. Stuart Duff sets out some starting points

Recently, PwC’s Financial Services Institute outlined the major problems it feels that financial professionals will face across the next fiscal year. Many of these were related to automation – worries are high in the financial industry about jobs being replaced by automated machines.

However, the list of concerns didn’t end there.

The study also highlighted concern about issues ranging from the implications of Brexit on client behaviour and investment patterns; securing new paths to develop revenue as consumers become more interested in low-cost products; and issues around the successful spread of culture and ethics within a business.

To combat them, people in business will need to develop one skill above all others: the ability to build rapport.

After all, it is our ability to communicate warmly and develop human connections and rapport with others that separates humans from machines and allows us to demonstrate our value over a computer.

It is rapport and relationship building that allows for the opening of doors towards new revenue, by making connections with potential clients and good business contacts.

It is rapport and strong relationships with these clients and contacts, which allow us to combat their uncertainties, and will help us to keep their investments and business behaviours steady.

And it’s rapport between colleagues that allows for the successful spread of culture and ethics from the top of a business right down to its entry-level staff.

 Now, more than ever, it is vital that businesses and individuals work harder on their people skills 

Now, more than ever, it is vital that businesses and individuals work harder on their people skills – as these will help to weather the climate of uncertainty this year is bringing with it, as well as adding a level of value that a machine cannot.

Building rapport is all about creating an environment, which allows genuine communication with others. This allows for connections to be made, ideas to be developed and productive working relationships to be formed.

As such, building rapport is not only important for making your working life run smoothly, it also helps to pave the way towards more creative solutions and greater productivity.

At Pearn Kandola, we’ve broken down the process of building rapport into its essentials.

Common ground

Unsurprisingly, we communicate a lot of our ideas and thoughts through direct, verbal communication. Whether this is in a group setting with our peers at work, a more direct one-to-one setting with a line manager or someone we are managing, or even in front of a big group as we present or give a speech – having top-notch verbal communication skills is paramount for individuals who want to move up the ladder at work.

However, non-verbal communication and body language is also a significant communicator.

We only need to look as far as the UK’s recent general election to see this in action. It has been interesting to see such different individuals as Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn adapt their personal styles for the campaign trail.

While this has brought challenges for both figures, they have provided fascinating case studies of adapting body language and verbal communication to suit their specific target audiences.

For example, Theresa May has communicated in a very serious and consistent way, reflecting her party’s mantra around leadership. This has been exemplified through her stoic body language and constant repetition of the Conservative’s main line, ‘strong and stable’, to describe her own party, and ‘coalition of chaos’ to describe the opposition (a term that Corbyn flipped back as the election’s consequences took shape).

Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, has changed his language and non-verbal communication quite dramatically during his campaign. He has dropped his ‘Hs’ and ‘Ts’, and rolled up his sleeves when speaking to one of his target audiences – the 18-21 student population.

This is a clear attempt at mirroring their speaking patterns and presenting himself in a similar way to the youth of today. His recent face-to-face ‘chat’ with JME, a British rapper, perfectly highlighted a significant change in his communication style.

Corbyn has clearly and consciously adapted his normal style of communicating to appeal to the people he is currently trying to target.

 The way we position and hold ourselves is key to the way we are perceived by others 

In the business world, other leaders have been lauded for their ability to articulate themselves well – and it has become clear across the past decade that the ability to present oneself in a positive and almost charismatic manner is vital for success.

Bill Clinton, for example, was famous for building rapport with others through the way he spoke and addressed them. Steve Jobs, another famous communicator, was well known for his high levels of charisma and his excellent ability to communicate and resonate with others.

So, how do successful leaders like these build rapport when speaking to others? The answer is not as obvious as you may think. While humans do communicate most of their ideas through what they are saying, the majority of the cues we take from others come from non-verbal cues.

In the case of communication, this can be through anything from the tone of voice to the way you are standing.

People enjoy the familiar in human interaction, so matching the verbal style of the person you’re talking to can strongly influence rapport.

By reflecting the communication preference of an audience, you can make them feel more at ease and validated: something that is highly useful for building a strong relationship and laying the foundations for your ideas to be received positively. This is best achieved through the following methods:

  • Match their volume Matching someone in volume implies that you’re on the same wavelength as them, and you’re less likely to be viewed as threatening or weaker if you match the level at which they are using their voice.
  • Use their words and references The language someone chooses to express themselves gives an idea of how they perceive the world. By matching their speech and their mode of expression, you show that you understand them and the way they think. This will help to build rapport.

Using the body

As we’ve seen, it is not just the way we speak that can help us to build better relationships with others. Just as the non-verbal part of how we express ourselves is important, so, too, is the way in which we utilise our bodies.

The way we position and hold ourselves is key to the way we are perceived by others – which is why the use of body language has long been an area of fascination for many.

Perhaps the most important body language technique you can use is mirroring. This involves directly matching the body language of someone you are speaking to: usually by holding yourself in the same way, or utilising the same gestures.

This can encourage an easier flow of communication without the other person thinking you’re making an extra effort – making rapport seem natural.

The above techniques may seem simple; however, understanding how to use them properly in a professional context is vital for building rapport and laying the foundations for strong relationships.

As people skills increasingly become more relevant in the financial industry – due to the volatile nature of the world’s financial stage and the rise of automation – it is vital that professionals work on these key skills.

This will ensure they remain successful within the business world, developing strong bonds that will help their organisation to thrive.

About the author

Stuart Duff is head of development at business psychologists Pearn Kandola

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