Building Rapport To Create Positive Relationships At Work

The importance of positive relationships at work

Having positive relationships with the people you work with is necessary for your overall happiness, your career success and the objectives of the business. The relationships you have with your co-workers can affect how satisfied you are with your job, improve your chances of advancing within the company, and have a positive impact on your overall well-being.

Building Rapport To Create Positive Relationships At Work

When you have successfully built positive relationships within your job, you feel more confident and comfortable in your interactions with colleagues. You become part of a high-performing team that values one another, rather than another individual looking out for themselves. Teams that are built on positive relationships will always outperform those that are not, giving everyone on the team a sense of accomplishment and community. These results in turn are recognised by the business and are likely to result in reward and promotion for those involved – everyone wins!

However, this isn’t necessarily as simple in practice, and everyone’s starting the process of building positive relationships from a different place. When attempting to build positive relationships a great number of people don’t know where to start, as it’s not necessarily a skill that comes naturally. Even the most outgoing, likeable people can improve their skills in this area. The good news is that wherever you are starting from there is one sure-fire way of making progress towards better relationships at work – building rapport.


How to start building rapport with co-workers

The first step to building a positive relationship is to build rapport, rapport is defined as “a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well”. Rapport acts as a foundation for positive relationships and once you have it, you can build on it, making relationships stronger and even turning them into friendships.

Sometimes you can have an instant rapport with people, it’s the feeling when you seem to just ‘hit it off’ with somebody without having to try, this is often how friendships are built. This is usually because you have found some common ground early on, something you can both relate to and agree on, or perhaps get excited about. It could be a shared opinion, a hobby or supporting the same sports team, but whatever it is, it can provide you with a great foundation to build further rapport.

The question is, what do you do when you meet someone for the first time and you don’t have the natural chemistry that we just described? You can attempt to discover common ground, but there is only so far you can probe before the situation starts to feel awkward and forced. Instead, what you can do to start building rapport early on are techniques known as Mirroring and Matching.

Mirroring and Matching are techniques commonly used in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, as an interpersonal communication model. The model was created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970s and is based on the idea that people feel most comfortable and safe around those who are like them; they feel that their point of view is understood more by those similar to them. The more someone believes you are like them, the easier it is to develop rapport on an unconscious level.

Mirroring & Matching

When using Mirroring and Matching to help build rapport you need to use your observational skills to pick up on others emotional states and body language. There are 4 key techniques you can use:


1. Matching tone tempo

Listen to the tone of the other person, if they sound passionate about an issue then make sure you reply with a passionate tone, show them that you are interested and care about the issue too. If they are expressing anger don’t be scared to vent with them a little, obviously within reasons (e.g. vent about parking charges, but not a personal grievance with another team member).

You don’t need to match their tone exactly just enough for you to be understood. Your ‘mirrored’ voice should never be radically different from your own. To significantly alter your voice is very obvious and can even cause the person you are talking to, to think you are mocking them. Remember this a technique, not a trick, the goal is to show genuine empathy.

2. Matching movement rhythms

Matching movement rhythms, also known as crossover mirroring, is another effective matching technique. It is done by identifying a movement that the other person displays repeatedly and then matching it with a different movement of your own.

For example, if the person scratches their head you might tap a pen on the desk. Their movement is likely habitual, and by replying to their habitual action with one of your own, they subconsciously see you as less of a threat and feel safer to open up around you. The other person on a conscious level very rarely notices these actions, unless of course you make them too obvious.

3. Matching body posture

This is the easiest technique to perform, but is also the most obvious to the other person. When attempting to match body posture be sure not to match the person exactly, or with the same amount of emotion/effort that they are putting into the movement. If the person leans forward to illustrate a point that they are passionate about don’t jump instantly to attention, but naturally bring yourself into a similar position during the flow of the conversation. This demonstrates that you are engaged in the conversation and that you are both on the same page.

4. Matching representational systems

Richard Bandler and John Grinder discovered that trust in a relationship can be strengthened if you are able to match the individual’s primary representational system (PRS). The idea of PRS is that people memorise their experiences using internal representational systems or mind maps, which are then organised by sensory systems; visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. Individuals tend to favor one sensory system and that favored system becomes their PRS.

People with the same PRS tend to trust one another more as they are able to express and communicate with each other easier and more fluidly. By matching the other persons PRS you are more likely to be perceived as a trustworthy individual and are more likely to build rapport with each other.

Building rapport in this way is just one of the many techniques that workplace coaches use to build better relationships, helping themselves and others to achieve their full potential.

You can download a free eBook below to learn more about workplace coaching and how it can help you build better relationships at work.


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