The power of rapport is immense. It holds the key to opening up people, allowing you to get your points across clearly and being taken seriously.
In order for others to see your true, authentic self they have to feel safe. Rapport provides that feeling of safety.
Sometimes rapport building is simply about putting people at ease and letting their guard down, creating a level playing field on which you can work together to find solutions that work for everyone concerned.
In this article:
- Building rapport at work
- Benefits of building rapport
- 10 Good rapport-building questions
- How to ask rapport-building questions
- Examples of what not to do when building rapport
Building rapport at work
In a professional setting, rapport is equally important. Rapport building questions are used not just to establish a relationship, but determine how a person operates, including how they tend to think, feel, or react, so that you can match your behavior to suit their demeanor.
Rapport building allows you to learn about the other person's needs so that your actions can be congruent with theirs.
Benefits of building rapport
Some of the benefits of building rapport are:
- Helping create a more harmonious environment, which is especially important when working with or managing a team.
- Helping to establish trust, which will make it more likely that people will buy in to your ideas, because they know and like you.
- Creating a good reputation for yourself as a person who is easy to work with.
- Being able to influence people without them feeling like they are being influenced.
- Being able to inspire people and get them excited about what you are presenting or selling, by tapping into their emotions and creating shared experiences.
- People will share more information with you and become more open to your ideas and suggestions.
- There is a greater chance that people will buy into what you are trying to sell, if they trust you and feel that you understand their needs, challenges and concerns.
Many rapport builders are also compliance builders — they help people want to do what you ask — but not all rapport questions lead to compliance. Some simply serve the purpose of connecting people in a positive way that makes further communication easier and more efficient.
The American Psychological Association defines compliance as “a change in behavior consistent with a communication source's direct requests”
With this in mind here are 10 rapport-building questions you can use when communicating with others.
10 Good rapport-building questions
The right questions can help build rapport quickly and easily because they give others permission to open up about themselves, which gives them the emotional space needed for trust to deepen. They allow us to connect with other people in meaningful ways beyond simply exchanging facts. Rapport building questions create connection, empathy and understanding quickly.
When used correctly rapport building questions can make all the difference between getting what you want or not.
They will help you create rapport with people in both personal and professional settings, including people that you don't know that well yet.
"What brings you here today?"
The word 'here' is a great word to use because it implies that the both of you are in the same place, even if you're not actually physically together. This rapport building question shows that you're keen to find out more about the other person's experience and that you're open to learning from them.
"What can I do to make your day better?"
This is one of the most powerful rapport questions because it demonstrates genuine interest in what is important to another person. It also opens up the opportunity for them to feel appreciated and take pride in what they can offer – a powerful combination.
"Is this the first time you've tried something like this?"
Asking a question about a common experience helps to bond people together. It implies that there might be more things that you have been through or are going through together, waiting to be explored. It demonstrates that you are open to sharing and accepting of whatever their answer is.
"Do you think there's anything I can do to make this easier for you?"
This question shows empathy, understanding and friendliness. It also implies that the other person might be able to help you achieve your goals or find some middle ground. Asking it demonstrates your receptivity to feedback and creates a feeling of teamwork, even if only for the duration of the task at hand.
"What are you hoping this will lead to?"
This rapport building question shows openness to whatever positive outcome the other person might have in mind. By asking it, you're giving the other person a chance to visualise their ideal future with your help in making it a reality.
"How does this compare to your last (job, product, service…)?"
Asking someone how an experience compares helps them to build perspective on what they're going through. It creates a feeling of perspective and shared experience that can help individuals bond quickly even when they don't know each other very well.
"What are the three biggest issues you're having right now?"
This is a powerful question which can be asked when an individual is ready to share deeper information. The word 'issues' implies that whatever the other person shares with you will be handled respectfully and in private, giving them permission to feel open about what is bothering them.
"How are you feeling about this?"
Making people feel safe means making them feel they can share their true feelings with you, even if those feelings are negative or difficult to talk about. This rapport-building question works because it shows genuine concern for the other person's state of mind and opens the conversation up for them to tell you how they really feel, rather than staying stuck.
"What is a positive outcome you could see from that?"
This rapport question helps to refocus the conversation on positivity and away from whatever problem might be going on. It also shows that you're keen to find a solution – something for both of you – rather than just empathizing with the other person's problems.
"What do you wish would happen?"
This question is useful for gaining insight into someone's true desires. Asking it creates an opportunity for the other person to dream about possibilities while still in the current situation, allowing them to feel inspired and motivated to take action instead of hopelessly stuck.
How to ask rapport-building questions
To build rapport, it's not enough just to ask questions. You also need to engage and communicate in an genuine and interested way.
Some easy tips to remember is by using the acronym S-CONNECT:
- S Stay in the present moment
- C Create open body language
- O Observe non-verbal cues
- N Notice what your 'gut' tells you is going on
- N Nurture the conversation
- E Engage with eye contact
- C Convey warmth with your voice tone
- T Talk less, allowing the other person to talk more.
The more genuine the questions are, the more people feel comfortable revealing themselves. Rapport is about being interested in someone else's perspective, so try to ask rapport-building questions as if they were an intriguing puzzle you want to solve together.
Remember that rapport is a feeling of trust and comfort, so keep your tone light and friendly even if you're talking about difficult subjects. This will help the other person feel comfortable enough opening up at all.
Examples of what not to do when building rapport
Don't ask any question that could be considered biased or antagonistic, such as: "So are you gay?" Even if you mean to respond positively, your gesture may be misinterpreted, eliminating any attempts at building rapport.
Don't answer your cell phone. If you need to take a phone call, politely excuse yourself and communicate when you will be available for the conversation again.
Don't ask questions and then forget to listen and engage with what the person is saying. Interrupting the flow of conversation will make people feel interrogated and shut down their willingness to share anything with you.
Don't speak in a monotone voice. Pay attention to your tone. People will mirror back your tone, so if you want them to feel comfortable opening up to you, you must feel comfortable engaging with them.
Don't talk too much about yourself. Ensure that you ask at least as many questions of the other person as you answer yourself.
Don't ask too personal of questions, especially if you get the sense that you're being intrusive. An example of this is: "So do you own your house, or are you still renting?"
By using these techniques, you can build rapport quickly and naturally with someone you've just met.
Remember that rapport is a feeling of comfort and trust, and the most effective way to build this is by asking genuine questions.
It can be difficult to know how to initiate a conversation with someone you don't know, but keeping the following principles in mind will help you engage in successful rapport building.
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