Gaining trust and building rapport is important in all aspects of social life. It helps you develop meaningful personal and professional relationships.
Trust is like time, a valuable currency that people spend only on those who prove themselves worthy of it. Would you be in a relationship if you didn’t trust your partner? Would you order an expensive gadget if you didn’t trust the seller? People are wired to trust strategically to avoid getting betrayed over and over. They understand this from their life experiences and therefore are skeptical of placing their trust in people who they don’t know intimately.
No matter what we profess to believe, people always place their needs and wants above others. They are always governed by self-interest. At first, the realization of this truth can lead to fear. How can you trust someone who is self-interested? The truth is that only because people are self-interested that you can actually trust them.
How to gain trust?
To gain someone’s trust, you must remember the basic fundamental of trust- People will always tend to act in their own self-interest. They make trust decisions based on the perceived benefit they can gain immediately in future. When you make your interests align with their interest, you can prove yourself to be trustworthy. We all want to feel important, and we like familiar things. We trust familiar things because we subconsciously know they have benefited us in past and made us happy. These ideas are the basic foundation for gaining trust of just about anyone. The alignment of interest can be short-term or long-term based on the rapport you build with them.
Short term alignment of interest happens when you and another person have the same specific end goal. For example, you and your co-worker want a big bonus and want the project to succeed, or imagine two bag packers traveling to the same place. In this case both the people can reliably trust each other as long as helping one also helps the other directly.
Over time, people tend to identify their long-term well-being as related to the well-being of their larger social group. Their family, friends, job, culture etc. Self-interest makes long term trust possible. It is the source of strong, mutually rewarding relationships, the source of kindness between friends, lovers and neighbors. If you can align with people’s long-term interests, they will trust and help you even when there isn’t an immediate benefit to them in doing so, because they want you to be in a better position to help them in the future. With long-term alignment, you can generally trust others to act in your interest unless they have a strong, immediate incentive to do otherwise. Also, your past behavior and patterns will affect their decision to trust you long-term.
What is the difference between comfort and rapport?
“Comfort” and “Rapport” are sometimes erroneously used interchangeably. Rapport is a harmonious connection where people easily communicate and understand each other’s feelings and ideas. Comfort is simply a state of ease and satisfaction where there is no pain and anxiety. So while comfort means that a person is content with you being in their presence. Rapport means that you can sympathize with each other and have a close bonding.
How to build rapport quickly with strangers (or start a conversation with anyone)?
Time your Approach
There is a reason people use opening sentences such as “Do you have a moment?”, “Is it a good time to talk”, “Can I have a few minutes of your time?”, to start a conversation with a stranger. When you approach someone to start a conversation most people assess the situation for the potential discomfort. They wouldn’t want to get into unpleasant situation that has no end in sight. Assuring them that your interaction with them is short and meaningful makes them more receptive. Avoid approaching people when they are visibly busy or not in good mood.
Wear a Welcoming Smile
Wearing a welcoming smiling is the best nonverbal technique you can employ to look less threatening and more accommodating. It makes you approachable. People are naturally drawn to people who are smiling and laughing. A genuine and sincere smile will go a long way in building rapport with people. Each day try to wish more and more people with a welcoming smile.
Use Eye Contact to Show Confidence
As a rule, maintain eye contact for atleast 60 percent duration of interaction if you want to appear confident while having a conversation. Studies show upon meeting someone; people look for signs of confidence. Eye contact has the power to break or make rapport. Don’t stare, it can be intimidating. Make eye contact when you are first introduced or when the other person is speaking to demonstrate your interest in them.
The eyes are the mirror of the soul. Notice what level of eye contact the individual makes. When do they look away and what topic bring back their focus. You can then adjust your eye contact patterns to build rapport to match their level of comfort.
Mirror and Match
Mirroring is the art of matching the other person’s speech patterns, words, posture etc. It gives the person a sense of familiarity. They believe you can emphasize with them. When people have good rapport, their body language tend to mirror each other. You can test the level of your rapport by changing your speech pattern and body language and observe whether the other person’s body language and speech pattern follows yours. Matching and mirroring are the instruments to bring two people in tune with the other. There is a thin line between mirroring and mimicking or parodying. Don’t overdo it.
To build rapport observe the speech patterns and phrases used by the individual. People use visual, auditory, kinesthetic and cognition/thinking processes. Use this knowledge to build a rapport with them
- If someone says ‘I see it is important’ or ‘I get the picture’ it means they like to visually process their words. They are likely to enjoy things that involve lots of visual input.
- If someone says ‘I hear you’ or ‘That sounds great’, it means they like auditory processing. Such people are likely to enjoy auditory inputs.
- If someone says ‘I catch your drift’ or ‘I get the point’, means that they put emphasis on kinaestheics or body movements while processing the input.
- If someone says ‘This make sense to me’ or ‘I understand that’, it means they like to process by cognitive functions. They are more likely to be thinkers.
To build a rapport with someone, listen to their language. If they use visual references create pictures when you are talking. If auditory, use tone and pace of voice more, if kinaestheics, use body movements, gestures postures and with thinkers, use more logic and facts.
Great orators and leaders tend to speak slowly. Speaking slowly sounds more authoritative and credible. Imagine Miranda Priestly from ‘Devil Wears Prada’. Notice the way she speaks, slowly and deliberately. She makes people pay attention to her when she speaks.
People who speak fast come off as over excited or unconfident because they quickly want to say things for fear of being cut off. If you want to give credibility to your words, purposely slow down the delivery and take pauses between sentences to allow your audience to absorb the content.
Master the Art of Listening
Humans always want to feel connection and validation. Listening is the best way to validate others and make them feel important. It shows that you actually care about their opinions and thoughts. To build rapport, encourage others to tell their story. If they are interrupted, bring back the focus on their story, it makes them feel appreciated.
Listening others, requires that you suppress your ego and put other person’s wants, needs, and perceptions ahead of your own. Don’t interrupt and overtake the conversation. You must have observed during conversation, how each person patiently waits for the other to finish talking so they can begin their own story. To build rapport it is important to break this habit. Listen to understand and not to reply back. Be a great conversationalist who encourages others to talk about themselves instead of hogging the conversation about your own stories of greatness. Use the ‘RASA’ technique of conversation- Receive, Appreciate, Summarize and Ask. This is particularly helpful when you want to build rapport in business environment.
Ask Interesting Questions
Rapport building is all about being attentive. When you are curious and ask open-ended questions, it shows that you find the topic interesting and want to engage further with the other person. If you pay attention and listen, you would naturally be able to ask questions.
According to a research, people who ask more questions, and specifically follow-up questions, during a conversation, are perceived as more likeable. If you want to build rapport, listen 70% and talk 30% of the time. Ask thought proving questions rather than steering back conversation to topics of your interests.
Example of rapport building–
Person – “I bought a new car last week…”
You- ‘Oh, really, which car did you buy?’
Example of poor rapport building-
Person – “I bought a new car last week…”
You- “Really, my cousin bought a car recently, I don’t like its red color…”
It is important to make the best out of first impression with people you meet. With right attitude you can make great friends who would be there for you throughout your life.
How to maintain the rapport and trust?
Match your actions and words. This is the fundamental requirement of maintaining rapport and trust. Do what you say you are going to do. Don’t create false expectations or put on a fake persona. Be honest with the person for a sustainable long-term relationship based on mutual trust and support.
Hunaid Germanwala is a digital marketer and content creator at Health Products For You since 2014. He has an MS from Ulm University in Germany. His mind is always buzzing with creative ideas and is eager to explore new perspectives. His motto in life is “Better to Light the Candle than to Curse the Darkness.”