The basis of all relationships is trust and we establish this upon our very first connection with people. It is for this reason that rapport building is a skill set which is critical for success in every field of one’s life.
Think about the last time you went into a store and had somebody ask you the classic “Can I help you?” question, as against somebody genuinely wanting to connect with you asking a more intelligent question, for example: "What occasion do you want a dress for today?" or "Are you wanting a new kitchen or are you looking for a renovation?" or "Is this for a rental or for your own home?". The ability to connect with somebody very quickly is reflected by how easily they can open up and start to share information with you. It is this sharing that builds and develops trust.
In rapport building, what we are really aiming to do is to find some common ground which will allow us to make a connection with another human being. It is this search for common ground that leads to most people resorting to talking about the weather. Subconciously we all know that the weather we are all experiencing is something we all have in common with the person with whom we are attempting to engage. The better you know someone, the more in depth and meaningful the connections/ questions can become. Consider, for example, the difference between “Has it been raining a lot here lately?” or “It’s a really lovely day outside isn’t it?” against “Did you go and enjoy the game last night supporting your team?” or “How’s your daughter doing with her broken arm?”
As we get to know people better, we know what their passions and interests are, and when we connect at this level, people open up very willingly and quickly. It is this ability to get conversation going and flowing naturally that makes rapport building such a core skill. The amazing thing is that it is not a difficult skill to develop. Whether you are going to a network event, a customer service agent, a tradesman or a sales rep, you know you will be meeting people and therefore you can deliberately plan ahead by developing questions with a bit more depth, thought and care than the "How are you?", "Isn't it a nice day?" or "Can I help you?".
Along with developing questions, some other things you can do are have good eye contact, handshakes and overall confident body language (which obviously includes a smile). Take an interest and actively listen to the person you are speaking to and take notes so that you can refer back to them when you see them again. Being prepared to share some personal information about yourself also creates a degree of authenticity and vulnerability that makes it safe for other people to open up and be authentic with you.
Here’s to your success!