If you want to get more in your negotiations and in life, it’s time you master the skill of rapport-building. Rapport building is all about relationship. If you want best outcomes you need to find ways to make connection (rather than break it) and build bridges (rather than tearing them down).
If you’re not someone who easily connects with others, don’t despair. Rapport-building is not an elusive gift you’re born with innately or destined to do without. While some people seem to instantly connect with others, others need to build it with intention. Rapport building can be instantaneous, or it can take time to develop. It can grow naturally, or you can develop it with attention to the art.
If you’re looking to up-level your skills at building rapport in negotiations (and in life), here's 10 quick tips on how to do it.
Always be authentic. Oscar Wilde quips: ‘Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.’ This is still solid advice. Avoid the temptation to adopt a persona that’s unnatural for you. That approach will break rapport. Know and perfect your natural negotiation style rather than trying to emulate someone else’s.
Building rapport is a hot topic these days, with ‘how to’ resources popping up everywhere. I encourage you to practice skills to build rapport but caution you to err on the side of being yourself as you work on the new skills becoming natural. It’s easy to get stuck in your head, over-thinking the ‘how’ and losing your natural charisma in the process.
Focus on Making a Good First Impression
First impressions matter. We tend to have a visceral reaction to others within seconds of meeting so it’s important to invite a positive reaction from the outset. Get yourself in a positive state and show up with an inviting posture, genuine smile, and warmth in your eyes.
Find Common Connection
Avoid jumping straight to business, but also avoid the common advice to create banal small talk as a rapport-builder. Try to find a more meaningful common interest or connection. Find your shared humanity. That’s a much better place from which to build rapport.
Most people like to talk about themselves. Get curious. Ask open questions. Discover what brings them joy. What are they passionate about? Ask some variation of ‘tell me about yourself’ and you’ll be on track to build connection and rapport.
Give a Compliment
Find something you can truly acknowledge that you appreciate about the other person. A sincere compliment goes a long way to kickstart rapport.
Use the Person’s Name
We all like to be seen. Calling the other person by name early in the conversation creates connection and familiarity. But be sure you have the person’s correct name. Nothing breaks rapport like mispronouncing someone’s name, or worse, calling them by the wrong name.
Be candid if you want to build rapport and trust. Admit when you don’t know the answer to something. Acknowledge mistakes. Many believe this undermines credibility and rapport, when the opposite is true. Being honest builds rapport, humanizing us and making us more relatable and trustworthy.
Create Shared Experiences
Spending time together and sharing experiences outside the negotiation process can boost the connection process. You don’t have to engage in a high ropes challenge together but find an activity with potential to create connection.
Tied to this, strategically sharing personal information can be powerful to build trust and connection. Don’t prematurely over-share, but gradually increase intimacy so the other party feels they know you and become comfortable sharing with you.
Mirror & Match
Be careful about today’s popular advice to mimic the other party in a negotiation (i.e. cross your arms or legs if they do). It takes practice and skill to do effectively. You need to be discreet or it can break rapport. A better starting place is to note the speech patterns, tone, tempo, and volume of the other party. Try to match those elements to increase the opportunity for connection.
Humor is a great antidote and connection-builder. Laughter releases the feel-good chemicals (endorphins) in our body, which opens the way for better bonding.
If you lose rapport in a negotiation, don’t ignore the elephant in the room. Be humble. Address why you lost rapport. Take ownership and apologize if appropriate. Get curious and determine how to get back on track.
Women often worry about their negotiation prowess. It’s worth noting that rapport-building is typically regarded as a ‘feminine’ trait. This isn’t surprising. In a world where for too long, they enjoyed so few rights, women were required to develop the skill. Their survival depended on becoming adept at developing relationships.
Practice these approaches so they become natural, and you can slip into rapport-building mode authentically. This lies at the heart of my Art of Feminine Negotiation™ approach, designed to get you better negotiated outcomes. Building better relationships will get you better negotiated outcomes.
Are you looking to up level your negotiation skills?
Please enjoy my TEDx Ocala talk
- Rise of the Feminine Voice as the Key to Our Future-
How to Get What You Want from the Boardroom to the Bedroom
Negotiation skills are a woman’s secret weapon.
Art of Feminine Negotiation debunks myths and multi-generational gender conditioning that have stopped women from fully stepping into their power. Uncover the unconscious biases that have limited women from becoming the biggest and best versions of themselves.
Learn the key skillsets that mark superior negotiators, explore how women already possess these skills in spades, and master how to start invoking these essential skills with intention in everyday life.