First published in Newsletter

The Role of Rapport in Building Trust

  Paying attention to and nurturing the relationship at play in any exchange is important but building trust in relationships is especially critical when it comes to creating a climate that is conducive to creativity and so to innovation. Trust, like credibility, is earned and built over time. It is not something you can wish for one minute and automatically have the next. One of the most important steps to building and reinforcing trust is to develop your natural ability to establish good rapport with others when you interact. What is rapport? Genie Z Laborde talks about rapport as a process of establishing and maintaining a relationship of mutual trust between two or more parties. (Laborde, 2006). This definition implies that rapport is something that has to be worked at. It should also be acknowledged that with some people and in some circumstances it is something that happens naturally and spontaneously from the outset. You could describe this as having ‘clicked’ with somebody. How do you know when you have naturally fallen into rapport? Here are some of the signs that you will probably recognise and have experienced yourself when the ‘click’ happens. You feel comfortable. You feel the exchange is enjoyable. You feel you understand each other. You feel you have things in common. You are happy to stay in the conversation. You are interested and tend to pay more attention. You may open up more. You match each other’s non-verbal signals comfortably without realising it. You may not notice that time is passing. You feel encouraged to seek out this person’s company again. Someone watching and listening to a conversation of this kind would observe a certain degree of matching in the body language. For example, two people deep in conversation may lean in towards each other or change position in a similar way. When the conversation is harmonious, it is also often possible to detect similar voice levels and tones. The facial expressions are also likely to reflect the harmonious nature of the exchange. The assumption is, that at a relationship level, the exchange is functioning well and to the satisfaction of both parties. Nevertheless, establishing rapport does not mean that you have to be everyone’s best friend or agree with everything that others say. You can still be in rapport with someone when you agree to disagree or when you challenge each other’s position or views. For many reasons, rapport does not always happen naturally or quickly. This places you at a disadvantage with the need to play catch up. Establishing and nurturing rapport is a critical skill that enables you to start on the...

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Feedback as an opportunity for constructive dialogue

There are a lot of misconceptions about the practice of giving feedback and many people shy away from it, fearing the dialogue could become unpleasant. Giving feedback is often used as a way to make a judgement about the other person or their actions. The feedback giver may use it as a vehicle for telling the receiver how to be something else, or to do things in what they consider to be a better way. Frequently, feedback is only given when something goes wrong and it seeks to impose the solution of the feedback giver. This runs the risk of creating resistance and frustration. In fact, feedback can and should be seen as a tool to build trust and find mutually agreed WIN-WIN solutions within the context of an overall personal development and performance plan. With this aim in mind, feedback has the potential to become a real two-way conversation and exchange. The way to do this is for the feedback giver to incorporate appropriate questions into the dialogue. Asking questions (instead of always telling) creates the space for the person receiving the feedback to come up with their own suggestions and become an integral part of finding options and solutions moving forward. Shaping the dialogue in this way allows both parties to reflect together on the ideal outcome, take into consideration the likely impact of agreed actions on any stakeholders implicated, and decide together how best to achieve the goal. What does this mean specifically for you as the feedback giver? In the first phase of feedback, you can focus as usual on referring to the specific situation and describe the action carried out by the other person and its impact. Instead of then simply proposing your recommended alternative course of action, you ask questions like “What would have been a better outcome?” and then “With the benefit of hindsight, what could you have done differently?” Encouraged by your questions, the other person will in all likelihood come up with ideas and alternatives of their own. Ultimately, this will have a positive impact on such things as engagement, motivation and their sense of ownership. When you ask questions with genuine curiosity and interest in the answers, the other person will feel more comfortable at opening up and you may be surprised at the richness of their ideas and thoughts. The relationship is strengthened, along with mutual trust. When you tackle feedback in this way, it moves from being something that you dread doing to something that you do naturally, willingly and skilfully at any possible occasion.  ********* Why not sign up for our Member’s Only Area? You can...

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