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Rapport – That Old Chestnut

Have we been teaching the concept of rapport incorrectly?

How well do our teams build rapport and trust?

I was reminded recently how critical rapport is in face to face communication.  For those of you who are thinking ‘really do we need to hear about rapport again?’, read on as I think we may have, in the past, taught the concept of rapport from only one angle. I think the best definition of the word rapport is from the Oxford Dictionary as it captures what I want to share in this post. The Oxford Dictionary states rapport is: a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well. So why talk about rapport? Recently I was fortunate enough to be holidaying in Italy with my family. I have always taught my kids the pleasantries in the country they are travelling in i.e Bonjourno, Ciao, Grazie etc. I have taught them these phrases, not to be a pratt or skite, but so they are showing appreciation and respect for the country they are travelling in and for the people that live there. Whilst a simple act, many Italians were very grateful for my children’s use of the language at appropriate times without me reminding them to use it. It seems at this basic level we can build rapport. My observation in Italy was that most Italians were fairly ambivalent towards you. Not rude, not distant just, I guess, cautious perhaps. I found that if I was authentically friendly, authentically interested, authentically apologetic they connected into that authenticity very quickly and were prepared to understand and help. This situation occurred regularly including those Italians whose English was poco. So the rapport building began as I tried to understand their situation.  I started to recall the many sessions in Customer Service training and Sales training about rapport. I remembered what a critical skill it was and how we had to be strategic about it not just ask how the weekend was. I guess I always taught the salesperson or the customer service representative to be the instigator. More and more now I think it is a two-way action/process. I have to be willing to understand the person and their situation before I jump right into my requests. E.g. In Italy I needed to consider does this person even speak English, is he or she busy, what might the culture be like and how could it affect their response. By being conscious of this early into our holiday I was pleasantly surprised at how lovely the Italians were that we dealt with. Once some trust had been built, we were able to build rapport together – whether it was a shop assistant, a waitress, a car driver or a local wine store. I think often in Australia we forget that rapport is about building a harmonious relationship i.e. more than one person is involved.  The big question is – How well are your teams building rapport in the workplace? Could they do it better? Feel free to call us to discuss how we can get involved in improving this skill in your teams. So whilst we have spoken about rapport before I hope that you see that it “takes two to tango” Yes, rapport is an old chestnut but it has not lost its importance in the communication process. It’s about building harmonious relationships in which both parties truly understand each other.

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