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Building Rapport & Being Charismatic

We use communication skills to build relationships with other people. This relationship-building happens with both verbal and non-verbal communication, and may be more or less conscious in its nature.

For example, when you go to an interview, you may consciously try to build a good relationship with the interviewer, to make it more likely that you will be offered the job.

When you meet someone you like in a bar, you may be much less conscious of making an effort—but there is little doubt that you will be using the same skills.

Building Rapport

The first task in developing successful interpersonal relationships is to attempt to build rapport - a state of harmonious understanding with another individual or group that enables greater and easier communication, i.e. getting on well with another person, or group of people, by having things in common. This makes the communication process easier and usually more effective.

Sometimes rapport happens naturally. You may ‘get on well’ with somebody else without having to try, and this is often how friendships are built. However, rapport can also be built and developed by finding common ground, developing a bond and being empathic.

Rapport is important in both our professional and personal lives; employers are more likely to employ somebody who they believe will get on well with their current staff.

Personal relationships are easier to make and develop when there is a closer connection and understanding between the parties involved, that is, there is greater rapport.

Building rapport is all about matching ourselves with another person. For many, starting a conversation with a stranger is a stressful event; we can be lost for words, awkward with our body language and mannerisms. Creating rapport at the beginning of a conversation with somebody new will often make the outcome of the conversation more positive.

However stressful and/or nervous you may feel, the first thing you need to do is to try to relax and remain calm. By decreasing the tension in the situation, communication becomes easier and rapport grows.

Breaking The Ice

When meeting somebody for the first time here are some simple tips to enable both parties to feel more relaxed and communicate more effectively:

  • Use non-threatening ‘safe topics’ for initial small talk - Talk about shared experiences, the weather, how you travelled to where you are. Avoid talking too much about yourself and avoid asking direct questions about the other person;

  • Listen to what the other person is saying and look for shared experiences or circumstances - This will give you more to talk about in the initial stages of communication;

  • Try to inject an element of humour - Laughing together creates harmony, so make a joke about yourself or the situation/circumstances you are in, but avoid making jokes about other people;

  • Be conscious of your body language and other non-verbal signals that you are sending - Try to maintain eye contact for approximately 60% of the time. Relax and lean slightly towards them to indicate listening, mirroring their body language if appropriate;

  • Show empathy - Demonstrate that you can see the other person’s point of view. Remember rapport is all about finding similarities and ‘being on the same wavelength’ as somebody else, so being empathic will help to achieve this;

  • Make sure the other person feels included but not interrogated during initial conversations - Just as you may feel tense and uneasy meeting and talking to somebody new, so may they. Put the other person at ease, and you will both be able to relax. Conversation will be more natural.


Non-Verbal Rapport Building

We create and maintain rapport subconsciously through matching non-verbal signals, including body positioning, body movements, eye contact, facial expressions and tone of voice with the other person.

It is important that appropriate body language is used. We are usually able to read body language without thinking about it, and it is generally a better guide to the other person’s actual thoughts and emotions than their words. If there is a mismatch between what we are saying verbally and in our body language, then the person we are communicating with will believe the body language.

Building rapport, begins with displaying appropriate body language, and particularly being welcoming, relaxed and open.

As well as paying attention to and matching body language with the person we are communicating with, the way we use our voices is also important in developing rapport. When we are nervous or tense, we tend to talk more quickly, which in turn can make us sound more tense and stressed. Varying your voice, pitch, volume and pace helps you to come across as more relaxed, open and friendly. Try lowering your tone, and talking more slowly and softly, because this will help you develop rapport more easily.

Rapport Building Behaviours;

  • If you are sitting, then lean forward, towards the person you are talking to, with hands open and arms and legs uncrossed - This is open body language and will help you and the person you are talking to feel more relaxed;

  • Look at the other person for approximately 60% of the time - Give plenty of eye-contact but be careful not to make them feel uncomfortable;

  • When listening, nod and make encouraging sounds and gestures - Smile!

  • Use the other person’s name early in the conversation - This is not only polite but will also reinforce the name in your mind so you are less likely to forget it;

  • Ask the other person questions - that require more than a 'yes' or 'no' answer;

  • Use feedback to summarize, reflect and clarify what you think has been said - This gives opportunity for any misunderstandings to be rectified quickly;

  • Talk about things that refer back to what the other person has said - Find links between common experiences;

  • Try to show empathy - Demonstrate that you can understand how the other person feels and can see things from their point of view;

  • When you agree with the other person, openly say so and say why - Build on the other person’s ideas;

  • Be non-judgmental towards the other person - Let go of stereotypes and any preconceived ideas you may have about the person;

  • If you have to disagree with the other person, give the reason first - then say you disagree;

  • Admit when you don’t know the answer or have made a mistake - Being honest is always the best tactic, and acknowledging mistakes will help to build trust;

  • Offer a compliment, avoid criticism and be polite.


In times gone by it was believed that when it came to charisma, you either had it or you didn’t - but that’s a myth.  Being able to impress and influence others is actually the result of excellent communication and interpersonal skills. These skills can be learned and developed, so being charismatic is not only possible, but very achievable.

Becoming charismatic involves paying careful attention to how you interact with other people; the traits that make up charisma are positive and appealing to others - They use their skills to get people on their side, perhaps from a professional, ideological or social point of view. Charisma is often linked to leadership skills, and can be an important trait of a successful leader.

Some people are more charismatic than others. We can recognize charisma in others but what helps us become charismatic?

Being Confident - Charismatic people are confident people in a positive way, without being boastful or egotistical.—or at least have the ability to appear so. They not only appear confident in communication but can also help others feel confident too, thus improving the communication process.

Showing Optimism - Charismatic people are, or have the ability to appear, optimistic. This means they try to see the best in other people, situations and events, and usually remain cheerful and ‘bubbly’.

They have the capability to encourage others to see things as they do, and can make others feel positive and more optimistic - powerful for successful negotiation and problem-solving.

An Emotional Player - Although charismatic people are very good at showing their true emotions when this works to their advantage, they are also adept at masking or acting in a way that makes others believe what they see.

Being Interesting and Interested - Others want to listen to what they have to say, and they want to listen to others. They are often good storytellers, with an engaging manner. They are able to communicate their message clearly and concisely, being serious or injecting humour where appropriate to keep their audience attentive and focused.

They will use open, relaxed, body language including lots of eye contact. They will watch for feedback from their audience and clarify their position accordingly. When in larger groups or making a presentation to others, their body language will be more exaggerated in an attempt to include everybody.

They are likely to ask open questions to help them understand the views, opinions and feelings of others and, because of their ability to make others feel at ease, will often get honest and heartfelt answers. They can be empathetic and considerate towards others, remembering details from previous conversations and therefore gaining respect and trust.

A sincere smile, maintaining eye contact, and being polite and courteous are very effective ways of getting people on your side. People are much more likely to do things for you if they are treated well and you are nice to them.

Demonstrating Intelligence - Charismatic people are usually good at initiating conversations. They tend to be intelligent, with an up-to-date knowledge on current affairs and rounded general knowledge. This makes small talk easier. They often have expert knowledge in some area and are able to explain complex topics in such a way that their audience understands, adapting their explanations according to the abilities, views and expertise of their audience. This also inspires the confidence and belief of others in the abilities of charismatic people.

Being Assertive - Charismatic people are assertive but usually in subtle ways. They can persuade through their words, encourage with their optimism and confidence, and be assertive by using their understanding of emotions, both theirs and those of other people.

Charismatic leaders may be able to influence and encourage their followers, and motivate people to do what they want.

A charismatic confidence trickster may be able to use their skills to gain the trust and respect of their victims before ultimately extorting money or other valuables.

Maintaining Attention to Detail - Charisma is all about attention to the detail of how interpersonal interaction takes place.

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