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Getting Your Message Across with Good Rapport

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

For most men, the matter of learning is one of personal preference. But for officers, the obligation to learn, to grow in their profession is clearly a public duty. – Gen. Omar N. Bradley


I bet you had had times when you walked into a shop and felt welcome. I am also sure you have had occasions where you have felt the opposite. What was the difference? What happened in the place that created that welcome feeling within you? 

The assistant noticed you entering and offered you a smile, and said hello. They tell you that you are physically and mentally welcome in their space. Compare this with a shop where you were completely ignored until you went to pay for something. What message are you getting there? 

What is rapport? 

Rapport is the art of being in tune with the people around you. Good rapport will enable you to let others know that you are interested in them, that you care about what they have to say, and are keen to understand them. It sends them a message that there is common ground and creates a sense of consideration, respect, and trust. 

Good rapport lies at the heart of your effective communication. It enables you to get people’s attention and for them to take on board what you've to say. Good rapport comes from body language and how you say things through the tonality and rhythm of your voice. Body language and how you tell your words make up 93% of your communication. What you say is only 7%! 

Of course, when interacting with others, our communication can be non-verbal, using just our body language. How are you communicating right now? 

I am sure you have experienced a situation where one person suggests within a group of people, and you know that others do not agree even if they still are silent. What tells you that they disagree and feel comfortable with the suggestion? Those who agree will share the same body language; they may be more animated in the discussion and actively buy into the idea. 

Those who disagree can do so without having to say or do anything. All they need to do is through their rapport by pulling back in their seat, crossing their arms, closing their book, or leaving the room. Through all those things, they wanted to make a point! 

So, assuming we have words to say, how can we maximize our tonality and body language to ensure good rapport when telling them? 

How to get into rapport with people:

Matching and mirroring are the two main ways to set up a rapport. People in accord have a certain rhythm to their voice and body movements. 

Voice Tonality and Rhythm. This is 38% of your communication. The tone of your voice and the pace you talk affect the message you are trying to portray. People use different techniques and speeds when speaking. Please do your best to adjust your voice to come closer to their talking style. 

Try it yourself – say something cheerful in a sad voice and see how it comes across, then switch it around and say something tragic in a pleasant voice. What message are you receiving in each case? 

What about when someone is talking to you, and you are distracted by something else you see? Does your voice respond in an interested manner, and does your body language bear this out? 

Body language. How you hold and use your body makes up 55% of your communication. Use your body to match people's body movements. There will be a specific pattern and rhythm to their movements that you can copy. 

It is wise to pay attention to this even if you have good intentions for doing otherwise. You could easily be misinterpreted. 

What if that shop assistant smiles and says hello without looking at you? Does that feel the same? She was preparing next week’s stock. 

What if two assistants chat while you are in their shop, even while politely serving you? Does the rapport exist between them or between you and them? 

What if you ask somebody to do something for you in a work environment and they agree, but you can see them tense up or visit their body sink slightly lower in their chair? Are they pleased to do this for you, or are speech and body telling different stories? 

All together now! 

The next time you communicate, think about rapport a little. Is it good or not? What makes it suitable? How could you use your body language and voice to improve connection? 

And stick with it. It can seem odd while practicing, but you will become a more natural communicator when it becomes second nature.

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