The Illusion of Rapport and the Essence of Genuine Connection

The concept of building rapport with prospects and contacts often triggers skepticism, evoking feelings of artifice and insincerity. When people talk about needing to “build rapport” with prospects and contacts it makes my skin crawl and my disingenuous meter go up.

Rapport is not the same as a real connection

True definition of rapport:  Rapport is a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas, and communicate smoothly.  For example, people with rapport may realize that they share similar values, beliefs, knowledge, or behaviors around politics, music, or sports.

While the true meaning of rapport and the need or desire to build it remains necessary, it has gained false notoriety and been twisted and manipulated over the last few decades, resulting in a superficial and transient nature, primarily resulting in a serving self-interest. 

Building rapport is about working to be “In Sync” with another person authentically, but this twisted version of it stresses one to strive to create rapport primarily to be able to influence their behavior. This is often achieved by engaging in reciprocal behaviors such as posture mirroring or increased coordination in verbal and nonverbal interactions, often ‘tricking’ them into a sense of rapport.

It has become superficial and, at best, a temporary connection, motivated by how it can benefit you. It feels like a manipulative technique to gain common ground and often results in an awkward, often cheesy and untrustful interaction.

The Pitfalls of Inauthentic Rapport

We have all felt it – the inauthentic conversation, teetering on the brink of manipulation, is universally unsettling. Such interactions, while possibly effective in the moment, ultimately reveal underlying motivations, leaving a lasting impression of insignificance and exploitation. This realization underscores the necessity of fostering genuine rapport, aimed not at manipulation but at understanding and influencing in a positive and ethical manner.

So in lies the dichotomy – a way to create true connection without manipulative tactics and insincere rapport building.

The True Essence of Rapport

True rapport transcends mere surface-level connection, focusing on creating meaningful relationships that facilitate open communication and trust. This genuine connection allows individuals to discuss their concerns and emotions freely, paving the way for more effective problem-solving and support. The challenge lies in establishing a connection that is both authentic and influential, without resorting to manipulative tactics.

Strategies for Authentic Connection

Self-awareness and Likability: Assess your likability and approachability factors, recognizing that first impressions, often based on emotional and imperfect judgments, can make or break connections. Take note that many of our natural behaviors oftentimes impede our likability and approachability.

Be aware of your unintentional behaviors that may be negatively impacting your first impression. For example, our resting face is not usually a smile of positivity. Remember that when you are lost in thought it shows on your face and can easily be misinterpreted in a negative light.

Be conscious of your natural demeanor and work towards honestly exhibiting universally appreciated behaviors like enthusiasm, sincerity, and kindness. Be you – the best version of you.

Recognize your emotional responses and understand how they affect your interactions. Being aware of your feelings helps in managing your approach and reactions during conversations.

Self-regulation: Maintain control over your emotions and behaviors, ensuring they align with your values. This consistency in character builds trust and reliability in relationships. Turn off your self-centered thoughts and be aware of how your actions impact others.

Stay in the moment and don’t be disrespectful by not being fully present.

Be confident from an internal belief of who you are in your character and what you provide, but guard against being overly confident to the point of egotistical.

Creating Positive Interactions: Focus on creating a positive emotional experience for others, which can lead to a natural and mutually beneficial connection. This involves being polite, having good manners, being consistent, and exceeding expectations, which not only fosters positive relationships but also distinguishes you in a competitive environment. 

Demonstrating genuine enthusiasm and commitment can inspire and engage others. Remember that having good manners and being respectful in a world filled with rude people will stand out and give you a competitive advantage. 

Do not only be polite to those who you can gain something from – that would be disingenuous and demonstrates a lack of character. Don’t talk down to people, or be condescending, don’t be overly demanding, or impatient, and above all do not act entitled.

Express gratitude because unexpressed gratitude is often interpreted as being unthankful, or having a sense of entitlement, which is not well received.

Everyone relies on daily doses of human interaction so make yours positive because life is about the people around you and how you make them feel.

Genuine Communication: Avoid superficial small talk and insincere compliments. Instead, strive for meaningful conversations that respect differences and seek common ground based on genuine interest and understanding. Be open about your intentions and goals, reducing suspicions and working towards building trust.

Don’t give empty compliments just to have something to talk about. Small talk and compliments are lame attempts and building connection unless they are sincere and genuine.

Mindful Listening: Commit yourself to the importance of listening over speaking, allowing others to feel valued and heard. True listening involves turning off internal distractions and genuinely engaging with the other person’s thoughts and feelings. Stop talking!

Listening is the weakest link in human interaction today. Too many people talk over each other to show their own views and self-importance. We are all our own favorite person and we like to hear ourselves talk, and sometimes when we are just listening we don’t feel important. But that doesn’t matter. When building connections we want the other person to know that we think they are important and if we stop talking and listen it can show that.

Listening is not a complicated action but it’s also not easy. It takes self-discipline selflessness and patience.

Turn off your own desires and thoughts, your impatience and your judgments, and be genuinely interested in what they are saying. Ask follow-up questions. Ask them to elaborate or clarify. If you don’t ask follow-up questions but rather go down a different road or line of thought it feels like you weren’t even listening to begin with.

Empathy and Understanding: Shift the focus from self-interest to a genuine interest in others. This entails setting aside personal biases and truly making an effort to understand the perspectives and needs of others, fostering a deeper and more meaningful connection. 

Building Trust through Capabilities: Demonstrate your ability to address and solve problems, rather than merely attempting to charm or persuade. Genuine connections are built on the belief in one’s capabilities and intentions, not on superficial charisma. When you do what you say and you keep your promises, and when you stay consistent and exceed expectations, they will not only have a positive emotional experience with you, they will be compelled to share that with others.

Respect for Autonomy: Acknowledge and respect the independence of others, allowing them to make their own decisions without undue pressure.

Value Exchange: Ensure that interactions provide mutual value, where both parties gain something meaningful, reinforcing the sincerity of the relationship.

While the concept of rapport has been misconstrued over time, its essence remains vital in forming authentic and meaningful relationships. By prioritizing genuine connection over manipulative tactics, individuals can foster trust, understanding, and mutual respect, leading to more fulfilling and successful interactions.

People buy from people they believe can solve their problems not from people they have “rapport” with. I can like you – but not believe you can solve the problem. There is no charming charismatic substitution for a connection built on solid belief that you can and will solve the issue.

Not everyone will buy from you – and not everyone should. If you put “everyone” in your pipeline and try to be the rapport-building chameleon you will have a pipeline filled with ghost prospects and you will be broke, no matter how charming and persuasive you are.

  • Delight in others 
  • Welcome their unique qualities
  • Express genuine pleasure in their company
  • Exhibit your character and capabilities

When you do this your pipeline will be full of true prospects and your bottom line will soar!

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