good rapport

5 Strategies to Build Good Rapport (Originally posted 10.5.2010)

In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be digging through the blog’s archive and doing some cleanup. Some posts I’ll be taking out all together while other ones I’ll be making more SEO friendly.

There comes a point where this kind of work needs to be done. Some call it taking inventory, others call it clipping the branches. Todd Tresidder calls it “Content Auditing”.

The point being is that there’s nearly 300 posts in the blog at this point and some it is relevant while there’s plenty that isn’t. I need to yank out what isn’t relevant anymore and re-release the good stuff!

So let’s get started! – JC

Being Technically Gifted

Many of us technical types (especially those of us who studied STEM majors in college) tend to have some sort of social anxiety. This is especially noticeable in the Big Bang Theory. All of the men have some sort of social issue.

I think that’s why it’s been one of my favorite shows over the years. I can relate directly with the characters – especially Sheldon and Leonard.

Many times I find myself being as ignorant about social situations as Sheldon. But other times, like Leonard, I make efforts to get out of my comfort bubble. To me, it’s very interesting to notice the differences between the two of them. Because other than Leonard’s people skills and his development of them, he and Sheldon are definitely 2 peas in the same pod.

One of the main differences that I see between the two of them is that Leonard can and does attempt to build rapport with people. A great example of this is when he went out of his way to welcome Penny in when she first came to their apartment complex. He could have done this or done the comfortable thing and simply hung out with the guys. Many technically inclined guys would have opted to stick with what they knew instead of greeting the pretty girl. In the geek world, we’re all scared of talking to the opposite sex.

Through the life of the show, he definitely seems to be the glue amongst among the girls and guys and this is a great quality to have. And really, to me, that’s what having good rapport is all about!


Matching and Mirroring to Build Rapport

So how do you build rapport? Well, the answer, sadly, isn’t just “be yourself”.

If that was the answer, you probably wouldn’t be asking the question in the first place, right? If being yourself has made you feel more alienated every time you do it, then there has to be some sort of unspoken rules.

Well, here are some tips on what to focus on the next time you’re attempting to get to know and build connections with some people. And for me, they all have to do with matching what those you’re talking to are doing.


1. Match Posture / Physiology

This is pretty simple. And you’ve probably heard about this one before. But this is a big part of that “body language” that you hear so much about. Imitate and match body posture and movements when you can with people you’re talking with.

If they’re moving their arms about to be more visual in describing something. Match that. If they’re being stoic – match that. If they’re smiling while talking – you guessed it, MATCH THAT! They’ll find you less likely as someone who’s a potential threat because they’ll believe that you’re in the moment with them. Treat them like a good friend and they might end up as one.


2. Match Rhythmic Movements

Yet another part of body language. Rhythmic movements are a finer aspect of moving. This is what dance is all about. It’s also why music is often a topic when people are getting to know each other. Saying that you enjoy several types of music suggests that you are open to different beats and different kind of people.

That said, people with ADD/ADHD might have problems with this. So if you feel anxiety at a dance and/or when other people are displaying and enjoying rhythmic movements and you wonder what it’s all about, you might want to look into Rhythmic Movement Training.

Reasons for lacking this ability could be as simple as having an ear infection when you were exploring it when you were growing up. Like anything else, it’s never too late to learn this new life skill.

3. Match Tone, Tempo & Volume of Voice

Ah yeah, the problem that Raj has around attractive women. As you should probably know, language is not just about body movements – it’s also about verbal communication. And just because most of your language is done nonverbally, it doesn’t mean you should disregard training of the voice when engaging with people. Matching your voice tone (pitch – high or low), tempo (speed – fast or slow), and volume with those that you are talking with is just as important as learning how to use the same movements.

4. Match Breathing

Possibly not the most obvious thing to think about when you’re learning how to build rapport with people. But it’s definitely another thing to consider. Become aware of the other person’s rate of breathing. If they are breathing slowly, then slow your breathing down to the same rate. People who are in rapport with each other tend to breath in the same rhythm. This can be very beneficial to you if you’re trying to calm someone down or crank them up. For an experiment of sorts, you can try this one with babies or children. If the baby or child is upset, their rate of breathing will be fast. First match your breathing rate to theirs. Do this for thirty seconds or so. Then start to slow your breathing down. The child’s breathing will also slow down, enabling them to calm down. If their breathing doesn’t slow down, just match theirs again for longer and then repeat the exercise.

5. Match Process (VAK) Words

This one I’ve never really considered until recently. But process words or words that help paint pictures visually, audibly, or kinetically are key in conversations – just as much as correct body language is. If someone is describing something visually, don’t speak in audible terms. Join them in visual description and understanding. If they’re describing something kinetically and suggesting that they “felt” something was right, join them by saying “Yeah, I felt the same way!” not “Yeah, I hear what you’re saying there.” When you’re using the same process words, there is definitely a different type of tone that you’re matching.

Action Steps:

The next time you’re attempting to be friendly with someone and want to set them at ease from the beginning, try and match their behavior.

Go to their level.

If you would like to know more about matching others and why and how this all works, one subject you might want to look into is Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). However it’s power goes well beyond building rapport.

Here’s a video illustrating more about it and how it can enrich your own professional and personal life:

Again, I’d love to hear from you about your experiences in building rapport. What has worked for you and what hasn’t?

Leave a Reply

2 replies
  1. Ailie Baumann
    Ailie Baumann says:

    Thanks for the post. I loved #4 I didn’t know about matching breathing. I’m going to definitely work on that one. Great article. Also huge Big Bang Theory fan

    • JC Preston
      JC Preston says:

      Hey Ailie! Thanks for commenting. Yeah, one of the easiest ways I’ve found to build rapport is to actually practice skills that you can learn through NLP training. That’s where Tony Robbins started, actually!


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