Rapport is the perky lovechild of trust and communication. Opening the way to riches and rewards, it keeps the conversation going even when there’s nothing to say. Rising above the angst and hurly burly of the 2020s, rapport is rooted in reassuring sincerity through a package of learnable skills that develop relationships, create positive workplaces, and secure deals and contracts. Rapport will save us all from oblivion, or at least get us through to Friday. Here’s how.

Rapport is old-school. It’s look ‘em in the eye, saying please and thank you, promising to email and actually doing so. These are the traits of trust. They can’t be sacrificed to efficiency savings, scrapped in favour of short-cuts, or replicated by a chatbot. The value of rapport lies in the fact that it’s personal and therefore means something. When a person says, “I’m sorry”, that’s rapport. When AI has been programmed to say it – for example, “I’m sorry the train is late” – that’s just disingenuous virtue-signalling.

What is rapport?

Rapport is the art of building connections with people, whether in a brief meeting or over time in a long-term professional relationship. Bridging differences, cultivating empathy, and promoting cooperation, rapport involves being genuine, transparent, and reliable in your interactions with other people.

Rapport helps you notice nuances in body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions, so that you see what someone is saying and can show them understanding and empathy.

At the heart of rapport, trust enables individuals to share openly, express vulnerability, and collaborate on common goals without fear of judgment or betrayal. As a fundamental element of presentation skills, rapport can open important doors. It can initiate conversations, close a deal, and lead the way to new opportunities.

Why is rapport important in the workplace?

In a large organisation, rapport is the glue that keeps teams together despite differences in age, background, or personality. It enhances teamwork, boosts morale, and develops the kind of company culture that leads to stronger collaboration with colleagues and clients.

In a positive work culture, employees feel valued, respected, and motivated to perform at their best. Rapport at this level, rooted in trust and encouraged by a supportive and empowering leadership style, is the antidote to a destructive culture of blame or back-stabbing.

Rapport allows employees to feel comfortable when sharing ideas, seeking help, or offering constructive feedback. In this atmosphere, employees are more likely to listen attentively, understand differing perspectives, work together towards common goals, and feel a sense of belonging.

When employees feel a sense of connection, they are more engaged, motivated, and satisfied with their jobs. This can result in higher levels of morale, fewer conflicts, decreased turnover rates, and stronger productivity.

How to build rapport

Effective rapport relies on genuine interest in other people, not all of them and not all the time – but at least with whoever you need to build a professional relationship with. Start by developing these core skills:

Active listening:

Demonstrate genuine interest by listening to understand the other person’s thoughts and concerns.  Eye contact is important, which is why keeping  your camera on matters when building relationships virtually.

Open body language:

Use open and welcoming body language to show that you’re ready to chat. Avoid crossing arms, fidgeting, or defensive postures.


Though the other person may express opinions that miss key facts or nuances, it’s important to show you’re listening even if you don’t agree with them.

Mirroring and matching:

By subtly mirroring the other person’s body language, tone of voice, and energy levels, you can better develop a sense of connection and empathy.

Find common ground:

Pick up on shared interests, experiences, or values. Discussing mutual hobbies or ambitions can quickly encourage a sense of understanding.

Ask open-ended questions:

Avoid stifling a conversation through persistent questions, instead recognise points made by the other person and develop them through open-ended questions.

Show genuine interest:

Ask follow-up questions that demonstrate curiosity and interest in the other person’s comments and achievements.

Be authentic:

Be true to yourself and genuine in your interactions, while focusing on areas of mutual interest and minimising potential points of disagreement.

Remember details:

Make an effort to remember important details about the other person, not least their name, interests, and any helpful personal anecdotes.

Follow up:

Follow up with the other person after meeting them. Sending a thoughtful message or checking in every now and again shows that you value the relationship.

Building rapport with customers and clients

Protect long-term client relationships through simple actions like active listening. This is particularly important in virtual communication when energy and body language are less obvious. Many techniques can help you develop rapport with clients, including:

Ask relevant questions: Use open-ended questions to gather information about customers’ goals, preferences, and challenges. Tailor your recommendations based on their individual needs.

Keep it personal: Show that you value clients by referencing previous interactions or purchases. Consider these not as past events but as starting points for future business.

Be responsive and accessible: Respond promptly to inquiries, whether in person, over the phone, or online. Make yourself accessible and available to address any concerns or questions.

Exceed expectations: Go above and beyond to exceed expectations, and provide exceptional service. Surprise them with unexpected gestures of goodwill or personalized recommendations.

Follow up: After completing a transaction or resolving an issue, follow up with customers to ensure their satisfaction, and address any lingering concerns.

Be transparent and honest: Build trust by being transparent about your products or services, pricing, and policies. Avoid misleading or deceptive practices that could erode trust.

Show gratitude: Express appreciation for clients’ business and loyalty through feedback, discounts, or special offers. A little gratitude goes a long way in fostering client loyalty.

Continuous improvement: Ask for feedback and use it to improve your products, services, and customer experience.

Protect the relationships your organisation depends on by developing rapport that leads to repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.

Examples of building rapport

Rapport can be seen in an empathic sales pitch, in client care when delivering products and services, and in follow ups and feedback. Within an organisation, rapport oils the wheels between leaders and their people, within teams, and in workplace friendships.

Unsustainable ways of working, that disregard the risks of fatigue and burnout, can compromise an organisation’s future. Effective communication and rapport ensure that employees are regarded as people rather than as parts of a process.

Sustainable working practices lead to stronger connections within teams and between leaders and their people, contributing to a long-term sense of belonging. This kind of thinking, that embeds trust and respect into company culture, spills over into relationships with clients which then strengthens reputation and retention.

Rapport then is key to an organisation’s long-term planning. At Working Voices, our Sustainable Human training programme helps organisations protect themselves in uncertain times by developing their culture. Leaders who encourage trust, respect, safety, and belonging create a positive working environment that leads to better engagement and higher productivity. In times of angst and hurly burly, training your people in the fundamentals of rapport is an investment in your future.

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