“I think he has a hidden agenda.” says one, “I do not think so, but to me he is not trustworthy,” says the other, “well, let us hear what he has to say, it will not hurt to listen, and then we can make up our mind on what to do…you do not seem OK with that.”
“Well, I am, in a way, but I just never have a good feeling whenever I see this guy.”
In the above conversation, minds have already been made, and chances of success for the person they are meeting are close to nil. I do not care how good a talker the person is or how good the deal he or she is bringing is. It is NOT a done deal. The reason is that the person has no rapport.
A boss from so long ago is the first person who introduced me to this word. He was always telling me that it is not enough to be good in your domain. You need to build rapport. Rapport is tricky to define, he used to tell me, and it is not enough to be honest to have rapport, even though honesty is an important ingredient to building it.
Rapport according to Merrian Webster website means “Relationship marked by harmony, conformity, affinity, or accord.”
When you have rapport with another, they listen and consider what you have to say, without doubting your intent, ability, or the information you provide. They see you as a trustworthy, competent, and honest person, behind the business role you are carrying out. Building Rapport is key to succeed in business.
One of the most important objectives in long term business relationships is to build rapport. Building rapport to me means two things: First, building trust. Trust of the other party in your competence, trust in your integrity, and trust in your good intents. The second is showing that you care. Others must feel that you genuinely care about them personally. Not just as a role. But as a person behind the role. I know some will jump up and down at this notion of bringing personal relationships into business and the dangers of that. I do not care. This is the way to really do business is to “see” the people behind the business role.
There are so many techniques out there that can help one build rapport, and many of them are good. However, the one that stands out the most as the back bone of all other ingredients is honesty. If this is too basic for you and you are beyond this simple advice then good for you, but unfortunately many are not. Let us look at examples:
How many people do you know who you have caught in a “white” lie? White lie is a meaningless term that means a lie that is not too harmful and made to avoid embarrassment. However, white or any other color, a lie is a lie and if a liar is caught, it shakes their credibility. Without credibility there is no rapport. Many refuse to lie, even when they are obviously joking, and one has to respect that.
Let us take another example. How many people do you know who play with words, where they are not lying but they are playing with words so you misunderstand what they have to say? This also can shake rapport.
How about people who say half truths to win an argument? That cannot help rapport either. They will hide parts of the truth because if they do not it might hurt their argument. So, one day he will be saying Reem is a great team player, and then very next day he will say that she is a terrible employee. I bet Reem’s performance did not change overnight. It is just that One can easily pick on one behavior and leave everything else when that behavior helps him or her prove a point. No one trusts people who play that game.
Finally, some will exaggerate the truth to get what they want. “Everybody agrees with me on this” when he only talked to one or two people about it. That cannot help build rapport.
The important point here is that building rapport takes time. Rarely can one build trust with another over few interactions. These things take time. So, even if one says the truth 99% of the time, that is not enought to build rapport. The 1% is all it takes to shake stakeholders’ confidence. When it comes to honesty and integrity, there is not a replacement for 100% truthful.
I think it is time for a disclaimer. I am not saying that everyone must be perfect. We all make mistakes. But in reality, if the rapport is shaken even once, it is hard, if not impossible to get it back to where it was. People might still talk and smile but it does not mean they still trust, or that rapport is there.
Also, do not think that rapport requires that you know everything or have the answer all the time. Saying “I do not know” does not necessarily hurt rapport, but saying that you know when you do not certainly destroys it.