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Body Language Part 3 – How to Build Rapport

Posted by: Jo Banks

Date: 01-01-0001

Building rapport with others is a key skill that once mastered will help your communication skills grow rapidly.  Here's how to do it...

Quickly building rapport means that my clients will feel comfortable with me and trust me enough to be open about things that quite often can be extremely personal. Building rapport is not only important in the job that I do, it’s important for a whole range of jobs and situations where getting the other person to ‘buy in’ to what your're telling them is integral to the success of your role eg sales and marketing, negotiating, bargaining etc.  

It can also be useful for diffusing conflict and influcencing whether it be in your professional or personal life. Building rapport is critical in certain roles as it lets that person think that you are on the same wavelength as them, so they will see you as credible and ‘like them’ (people will often buy more or be more open with people they perceive to be like them).

How to build rapport

The easiest and quickest way to build rapport is through mirroring the other person’s body language. If you ever spend any time observing others, you can pick so much up about relationships of the people around you by watching their body language eg if they are in love, if they are colleagues, if they are friends, whether their relationship is new.  I even find it relatively easy to tell if a couple are having an affair, all through observing their body language and mirroring).

When people are in complete rapport with each other we have exactly the same body language ie one will lean forward then the other will, one will take a sip of their drink and the other will, one will cross their legs and the other one will.

These actions, like most body language, is completely subconscious, but it is this exact mirroring that indicates that both people are totally on the same wavelength, in complete harmony with each other. Next time you’re with someone you know well, take note of how your body language, after a few minutes, ends up being exactly the same without you consciously changing it.

On the other hand, look at the body language of people who are in conflict, those who aren’t getting on, who are miles apart in their thinking - their body language will be quite different. It will be opposing and usually not the same in any way.

So, why is consciously mirroring someone useful? If there is something that you want someone to agree with you on, if you want someone to buy something from you, you just want them to see your side of things or if you find someone attractive and want them to find you attractive too, mirroring is the key. In fact, mirroring is so powerful that if you are in conflict with someone, mirroring their body language will usually help to bring that person round to your way of thinking.

I’m not talking ridiculously over emphasising their body language so that it’s immediately obviously that you are copying them – that will just look crazy and the other person will see it a mile off. You need to be subtle about it, VERY subtle in the beginning.

How to mirror another's body language

Start by sitting the same way they are sitting ie cross your right leg if they cross theirs (a mirror image). If they take a drink, you take a drink. If they touch their face you touch yours but in a very subtle way – each movement they make, you leave it a few seconds then you mirror it. Also watch how they are speaking and mirror their tone, their volume and the speed in which they are speaking (this is obviously really helpful for building rapport with someone over the phone). Some behavioural experts, especially professional negotiators I know, take this to the ‘enth’ degree and even copy the person’s pattern of breathing – they are highly skilled and know that it gets them on a whole different level with the person they are negotiating with.

Give it a go:  Next time you’re sitting with someone opposite you, take a minute to notice if you are in rapport and been subconsciously mirroring them.  Alternatively, try mirroring someone who you want to bring around to your way of thinking.

It really is a powerful tool that if you can master it, will pay dividends.