Leadership Skills: The Three Components of Fabulous Rapport

Do you know how to build rapport, actively maintain it, and repair it when it breaks? It’s a straightforward process when you have a good grasp on the building blocks and see how they fit together.

Think of someone with whom you have very high rapport. Got someone in mind? Now, chances are (1) you have a very high degree of shared reality with this person, (2) you feel psychologically close to him/her, and, (3) you interact quite frequently. Right?

Now, think of someone with whom you have very low rapport. Got that person in mind? If not, make one up. Now, I’ll bet that (1) you operate in very different realities, (2) you feel psychologically distant from one another and (3) you interact as seldom as possible.

As illustrated above, rapport has three behavioral elements:

  1. Shared Reality: the degree to which your view of the world matches the other person’s view. We signal shared reality by dressing alike, behaving alike, or using similar language. (You can also build shared reality through participative processes like the Leadership Gift program and community.)
  2. Psychological Closeness: how attracted you are to one another. Closeness can be signaled in a variety of ways from eye contact and other nonverbals to physical proximity.
  3. Communication: the frequency of interaction between you. The higher the better.

Each of these three building blocks or variables can range from high to low. The blocks also tend to vary together. So when you are experiencing high rapport with someone, you are likely to also experience high shared reality, high psychological closeness, and high frequency of interaction. When you are experiencing low rapport, low values of all three variables are probable.

So much for the primer. Now comes the fun part! Not only do these three building blocks vary together, they also have causal — i.e., cause and effect — relationships with one another.

When something happens that changes one variable, it usually triggers a chain reaction through the other two variables. This is one reason we can so rapidly build, break, or recover rapport in a variety of ways.

For example, when someone demonstrates that they think like you do (i.e., shared reality is high), then you’ll probably judge them favorably (i.e., psychological closeness increases) and you may well be moved to communicate with them (i.e., interaction frequency will increase).

Similarly, when someone does something to which your response is, “I can’t believe they did that!” it’s likely that your sense of closeness to them will decrease rapidly and that you’ll decrease or even eliminate communication.

Here are some rapport-building tips:

  • To build rapport, first work on the communication, demonstrate sincere psychological closeness, and build a shared reality based on joint interests and expectations.
  • To maintain rapport, stay in frequent communication.
  • Sudden rapport breaks are usually traceable to a break in shared reality caused by one party’s behavior or perception of the other person’s behavior. To recover and rebuild rapport, get back into communication as soon as possible (even when one or more parties resists due to low rapport) and clean up the reality break by talking about what happened and what it meant to each party. Then create and commit to new understandings about the future.

Get Started With This Week’s 5-Minute Stretch

Model someone who builds rapport the way that you’d like to. How do they use the three building blocks? Identify two or three things they do really well and try them for yourself this week in one or more of your relationships.

Extra Stretch: challenge yourself this week to regain rapport that’s been lost as a result of low frequency of interaction or psychological distance. Or, repair and rebuild a rapport break.

Does this week’s post stir your pot? What issues do you face at work? Share your insight in a comment! Or post your question about it.

Leaders and coaches: Hone your unifying skills in the Leadership Gift Program. CEO’s desiring a culture of diverse unity may want to investigate the proven Managed Leadership Gift Adoption program.Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.
Posted in Leadership on 09/17/2012 01:47 am
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