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  • Terry R. Bacon

How to Build Rapport and Trust with Others

If you want to become more influential with people, then a key element is building rapport and trust with others. Rapport creates a sense of commonality and similarity. When people feel more connected with you, they are more likely to be swayed by your attempts to influence them. In other words, they’ll be more likely to say yes to your requests, agree with your ideas, and go along with your suggestions. Those positives are reinforced when they trust you, when they believe what you say, know they can count on you, and believe you to be a person of good character.

What does it take to build rapport and trust with others? I asked tens of thousands of respondents to rate thousands of people on twenty-seven skills related to effective influencing. The research identified five critical skills strongly correlated with high ratings on “building rapport and trust with others.” Four of the five skills seem logical because they are elements of having good interpersonal skill, but the fifth strongly correlated skill is an eye opener.

The four related interpersonal skills are speaking conversationally, supporting and encouraging others, listening, and showing genuine interest in others. This table shows the strength of those correlations on a scale of 1-5:

This tells us that people who excel at building rapport and trust with others:

  1. Also excel at carrying on social conversations. They are at ease in casual social settings and are adept at the kinds of verbal exchanges that put make people feel both comfortable and part of the conversation. They’re not overly formal, stiff, or awkward in talking with others. They don’t dominate the conversation but can hold their own while allowing others share in the dialogue. People who are good at speaking conversationally are comfortable with themselves and generally lighthearted rather than somber, cynical, or sarcastic. They may be humorous but don’t have to hold center stage and entertain others.

  2. Are good at supporting and encouraging others, which tends to make them good role models, mentors, and coaches. This skill, too, is emblematic of people with healthy egos who don’t feel the need to dominate others or be better than everyone else. They feel supported and encouraged, so they are comfortable building up and helping other people. Supporting others is a selfless act, and encouraging others is an act of leadership, so it’s not surprising that people who rated high on this skill are seen as more effective leaders. When they encourage and support others, they are giving of themselves, and this builds rapport and trust. When someone does something selfless in support of you, you will naturally feel greater rapport with them and will be inclined to trust them.

  3. Are outstanding listeners. They listen at least as much as, and perhaps more, than they speak. They engage in what others are saying. They may summarize or repeat key points of what they’re hearing, or they may ask clarifying questions that encourage the speaker to say more. Listening is consistently ranked as one of the most important interpersonal skills, and it’s easy to see why people who listen well are better able to build rapport and trust. It’s difficult to trust someone who doesn’t listen to you; you don’t know if they’ve heard you or care about your perspective. They seem only interested in themselves. But when people listen to you, when they are truly engaged in what you’re saying, you feel more rapport with them because you feel like they care about you and respect what you have to offer.

  4. Genuinely care about other people and show it. Again, this speaks to having a healthy ego and feeling comfortable with yourself. When you have no ego issues, it’s easier to genuinely care about other people. You are more inclusive and curious about others. You welcome them into your orbit and are genuinely happy when they invite you into theirs. People who are disinterested in others usually can’t hide that fact, even if they try to fake it. They break away too quickly or forget small details they should have remembered. They seem oddly uncomfortable and empty in their contrived expressions of interest. If you are adept at reading faces, you look at them and see only a mask. However, those who genuinely are interested in others show it by being and staying engaged, by inquiring about and remembering the facts of people’s lives, and by following up on conversations and commitments. You trust them because they genuinely care about you.

The fifth influence skill related to high ratings on building rapport and trust is “behaving self-confidently.” This finding is surprising. What would self-confidence have to do with rapport and trust? Looking at this opposite is helpful. People who lack self-confidence may find it more difficult to build rapport and trust with others because that lack of self-confidence makes people uneasy. It’s more difficult to trust people who don’t trust themselves, more difficult to build rapport with people who are self-doubters. Self-confidence is attractive and reassuring; the opposite is not. Here is the strength of correlation for people rated highest and lowest on building rapport and trust:

Building rapport and trust is a skill most strongly correlated with success in using the influence technique of socializing, but it is also a key skill for consulting, modeling, appealing to values, exchanging, and logical persuading. You can use all of these techniques for effectively if you excel a building rapport and trust.

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