The Art and Science of Rapport

Have you ever found yourself in an awkward or difficult conversation? Of course, if you interact with people, both situations are inevitable. When it’s awkward you might think, “I wish we were more at ease.” When it’s difficult you might think, “Why does this have to be so hard? We’re just talking!”

Consider this concept: whenever you or the person your talking with are having a negative experience in a conversation, it’s a signal that rapport is missing and you need to build it. Being successful in life, in business and in your relationships requires you to become comfortable in the face of awkward or difficult conversations. The best way for you to become comfortable and put your clients at ease is to master the art and science of building rapport.

There are four strategies I discuss in Chapter 1 of Conversations: How to Manage Your Business Relationships One Conversation at a Time. 

The four strategies are:

1. Systematically Gather Information

2. Make a Rapport Sandwich

3. Match Non-Verbal Communication

4. Support and Adapt to Style Preferences

Here are a few key observations about rapport:

  • Rapport acts as the context, background and setting for all your relationships.
  • Rapport creates comfort. It’s like an anti-anxiety medication. When you have rapport with someone you can sit in silence and it doesn’t feel awkward, or you can speak freely without a high degree of fear.
  • Rapport continuously impacts the effectiveness of every one of your conversations and goes a long way to determining their outcomes.
  • Metaphorically speaking, the rapport in a conversation is like the ambiance in a restaurant. A good ambiance creates a background for an enjoyable meal. 
  • Rapport is much more than having things in common. It could simply be using similar words or expressing yourself in similar ways. It’s about finding a way to put yourself on the same side of the table. It allows you to relate to your client’s experience before transacting business.


Go into a conversation with a clear plan for getting rapport—especially with people you would consider difficult to interact with. It’s a surefire way to make your life and your conversations easier. Moreover, lest you think you have nothing in common and cannot build rapport with someone, the lesson in Chapter 1 of Conversations is that everyone has communication preferences that you can match.  If you show interest, gather information, make a rapport sandwich, and match or adapt to non-verbal and verbal communication styles and preferences, you’ll be able to build rapport no matter what the circumstances.