by ed2go instructor, Dawn Lianna
(more about this instructor below)
The first key to effective communication is having a good rapport.
What is rapport?
Rapport is your ability to get along with others as well as the ability to get and keep the attention of someone else.
Keep reading as I explain more about communication and break rapport down into small, manageable steps that you can learn and practice easily to improve your rapport with just about anyone!
A Healthy Model of Communication
Healthy communication is respectful and straightforward, and each person involved is honored for his or her authenticity which helps trust grow. Effective communication is positive and honest. It is not superficial but sincere. Effective communicators do not ramble on or talk too much. They listen attentively, are clear and to the point, and takes responsibility for their words and actions.
Healthy communication honors the values of all human beings even though values differ from person to person and culture to culture. Each person has a different experience of any event. All perspectives are not the same; yet all perspectives can be respected.
Healthy communication also includes appreciation. When you appreciate another person you honor who they really are. You are encouraging self-esteem. Children, family and community members feel rewarded when you communicate positively and supportively.
Effective communication skills help you avoid arguments and learn how to effectively deal with conflict, while keeping peace. The words you choose affect the people around you at home, work and play. Words can hurt or words can heal and lead to understanding. Learning how to be consistently respectful makes you a better communicator.
You may have noticed that some people seem to get along well with nearly everyone. These people have natural rapport. Think of someone whom you really enjoy being with. Perhaps you felt an immediate and natural affinity with that person, or maybe he or she was easy to talk to. When you are with someone you instinctively understand and get along with, you also have natural rapport.
Natural rapport is often unconscious. You may not yet realize how to achieve it. The good news is that rapport can be learned and practiced. It is easy to get and keep rapport when you know how.
6 Steps to Building Great Rapport
Step 1: Practice Effective Listening
The first component of great rapport is effective listening. Listening is both an art and a science. Think about how good it feels when someone really listens to you or when you really understand another person. Everyone feels the same.
Listening involves being present in the moment. If you are thinking about other things, you are not really listening. Being present precisely where you are is a skill in and of itself and can be learned and practiced. Check yourself right now to see if you are completely involved in this moment. Most of us have very busy lives. You may have many things on your mind, and you may not even realize how inattentive you really are.
An easy way to stay present is to pay attention to your breathing as it is an automatic function of your body. Breathe deeply, and move your breath down into your lower belly past your diaphragm. Breathing in this way physically massages the organs of your abdomen and relaxes you. This can also help you stay calm. Breathing helps you become more patient. If you breathe before you speak, you will not interrupt others, and will become more naturally respectful.
Step 2: Practice Reflective Listening
A simple, effective way to let others know that you are listening and hearing what they say is referred to as reflective listening. Repeat what you hear in a paraphrased sentence. Do not parrot or mimic the exact words of your partner but change them slightly, still using some of his or her words. This helps your partner know that you hear what has been said and minimizes the possibility of misunderstanding.
Step 3: Use I Statements
“I” statements are statements made in the first person and create a sense of self-responsibility. “You” statements can elicit a feeling of being blamed in your communication partner. (Ex. If I say, “I am feeling sad,” this statement indicate self-responsibility. But, if I say, “You don’t know how I feel,” that may elicit defensiveness.) I have heard some wonderful stories from students who have made this simple and powerful change from “you” to “I” statements in their communications and found real turnarounds in relationships that were previously delicate. Many have reported that this small change made it easier for their others to hear them out on challenging topics.
Step 4: Understand Intention
Another component of great rapport is intention or the purpose behind your communication. Many misunderstandings are bypassed when you are aware of the underlying purpose of a communication. Always presuppose that others have a positive intention in their communications because when you look for the positive intention, even the most awkward communications can be seen in a new way.
Identify from the onset your personal intention of communication. Perhaps you want to establish rapport or friendship. Maybe you care about someone, want to help, or perhaps you are genuinely interested in a topic, career or business opportunity. After you have identified your intention, communicate that to let others know your deeper needs and desires and the reason behind your communication. After you have communicated your personal intention, you should also work to find out the intention of others by asking questions. Do you want advice or do you just want me to listen? What is the purpose of your phone call? Do you have an agenda for our meeting? Knowing others true intention is important so you are able to respond properly. (Ex. If you give advice to a friend and he only wants a listening ear, then you may lose rapport, even if your advice is good.)
Step 5: Learn Respect
The third component of rapport is respect, and it is essential for healthy communication. Respect is accomplished with polite words and also with a tone-of-voice and volume that is compatible with your partner and the situation. Respect is communicated by taking responsibility. When you accept responsibility for your words, actions and mistakes, you build respect with your partner.
To show others you respect them, speak in “I” statements, using the first person – present tense. (Ex. “I enjoy being with you.” “I take responsibility for my actions.”) These statements are easy to hear and hard to argue with. On the other hand if you say, you make me feel happy or you make me feel sad, you give the responsibility for your feelings to others. You are saying they are the cause of your feelings and they will be more likely to object or disagree with you.
Step 6: Have Appreciation for Others
The fourth component of rapport is appreciation, and it goes a long way toward helping people feel valued. It also helps to keep you in good standing with anyone. It is hard to stay upset when you appreciate another person or when you feel that you are appreciated.
Show your appreciation through praise of positive action. Experts say it takes 30 times or 30 days to change a behavior. If you want to help change someone’s behavior, comment when he or she does the task correctly. (Ex. Imagine telling your child to turn off the light when he leaves his bedroom. Comment when he turns the light off and praise his behavior.) Experts suggest commenting on the positive behavior five times before you mention the behavior you want to change again.
Now that you know the first key to effective communication, it’s time to practice what you’ve learned.
Practice staying present and being attentive to the intention behind your communications. Practice rapport and effective listening skills with others and notice how much you can improve your conversations just by paying attention to the components of rapport. You should also begin to notice when you have rapport and when you lose it.
Even if you are already an effective communicator, take your skills to a new level by practicing the components of great rapport. You’ll be well on your way to being able to get along with anyone.
About our ed2go instructor
Dawn Lianna, who holds a Master’s degree in counseling and psychology, teaches communication, stress management, natural health, and therapy skills to capacity audiences. A seasoned writer, teacher, and counselor, Lianna is known for her humanitarian style, quick wit, motivational skills and warmth.