How To Build Rapport With Anyone At Work (With Examples)

By Sky Ariella
Aug. 3, 2022

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Rapport is the foundation that a relationship grows from in a professional environment. It can feel slightly awkward to begin building rapport with co-workers, supervisors, and clients during the workday, but it sets positive connections into motion.

Key Takeaways:

  • Building rapport, or a positive relationship with other people, is helpful, especially with colleagues, customers, and job interviewers.

  • Rapport with colleagues and customers can lead to a more productive professional life.

  • Rapport requires you to be empathetic and self-aware.

  • Rapport can provide learning opportunities and expand your network.

  • Asking appropriate questions are great ways to build rapport.

How To Build Rapport With Anyone At Work (With Examples)

What Is Rapport?

Rapport building refers to the process of molding a positive relationship with the people around you. It can be established between two individuals, a small team, or a company’s entire group of employees.

The ignition of rapport often happens organically. Some people refer to it as just “clicking” or getting along with another person from the first moment they met. This is the starting point of any relationship, whether it’s professional, platonic, or romantic.

How To Build Rapport: Know Your Audience

One of the most important first steps of building rapport is knowing your audience. Building a rapport with your supervisor will be different than building a rapport with a client. In this article we will explore building a rapport with:

  • Colleagues. Building a rapport with your coworkers is helpful to your professional life.

  • Customers. A rapport with customers makes interactions more productive.

  • Interviewers. Building rapport during a job interview doesn’t guarantee an offer, however it can help show your soft skills and makes a good impression.

  • Anyone. Building a rapport with anyone is an important skill that can come in handy in many different situations.

In all cases, there are specific ways you can build a rapport with someone. You may also notice similarities. Building a rapport requires certain soft skills that can be used with any audience.

How to Establish Rapport With Colleagues

Beginning a relationship with colleagues takes a little work. At first, all co-workers are just a bunch of strangers with the single common interest of having the same employer. To grow out of this distant phase of a professional relationship, contemplate the following steps:

  1. Get to know their basic information. Before you can boost a relationship with someone at work, you need to know all their basic information.

    This includes things like their name and preferred pronouns. Gathering this fundamental information about the people you work with demonstrates that you care about getting to know them.

  2. Offer them help with a project or task. A productive work environment functions collaboratively. That sometimes means taking on tasks outside of your job description to lend a helping hand to a coworker.

    Not only does helping out a colleague with a task broaden your horizons and display reliability, but it also encourages rapport.

    Everyone can use a little assistance in their duties from time to time. Offering your effort to help a co-worker in need is a good way to get the ball rolling on building a relationship.

  3. Ask questions about their life to discover commonalities. The vast majority of friendships are branched from discovering commonalities between two people.

    This rule still applies when networking with colleagues in a professional environment. Be inquisitive, without being pushy, about your co-worker’s life, hobbies, and background.

    After fielding them good questions, listen up to every detail of the answer they provide. Tossing them a question and then tuning out for the answer reads as inconsiderate. People are more interested in building rapport with people who engage in active listening with them.

  4. Invite them to get together outside of work. The relationship can be strengthened even further once a base of rapport is formed with a colleague by inviting them to get together outside of work. The hangout doesn’t have to be a monumental event, but it should be somewhere other than the office.

    Examples of easy-going scenarios to invite a co-worker to include:

    • Out to lunch

    • Grabbing a coffee

    • Going for a hike

    • A show, concert, or sporting event

    Meeting with close co-workers outside of the workplace deepens the connection because you form more memories with them.

How to Build Rapport with Customers

When you’re working in a position with direct customer contact, like sales, you’ll likely be handling many different personalities daily. The key to becoming successful in this type of role is by building rapport with the clients.

If you’re having trouble connecting with your sales audience at work, consider the following tips:

  1. Evaluate their priorities and cater to them. A successful salesperson’s ego, needs, and opinions melt into the background the moment they begin a customer interaction. They’re replaced by determining the priorities of the client and working towards fulfilling them in a way that leads them to make a purchase.

    To begin building rapport with a new customer, evaluate what’s important to them and what they’re looking to get out of the exchange.

  2. Adapt to their personality and circumstance. Industries with firsthand customer contact handle a catalog of varying personality types and personal circumstances. One person is pleasant and goal-oriented, but the next is disengaged and unsure of what they want.

    The ability to adapt to any type of character that walks through the door improves the chances of establishing a solid rapport.

  3. Maintain an optimistic attitude. When a disgruntled customer comes into your workplace to complain about a situation, it’s easy to tune out and simply wait for it all to be over. However, this doesn’t work towards solving their issue or improving the rapport between the two of you.

    Even when you’re handling a tough customer circumstance, it’s important to maintain an optimistic attitude to show them that you’re willing to work with them to find a solution.

  4. Employ positive body language. Rapport isn’t only created from your spoken words. It’s also a product of an employee’s body language cues with customers.

    While you might be saying all the right things to form a connection with a client, your body’s nonverbal communication could be telling an entirely different story.

    Examples of positive body language include:

    • Sustaining eye-contact

    • Upright posture

    • A confident handshake

    • Unfolded arms

    • Smiling and nodding

How to Build Rapport in an Interview

An interview provides hopeful candidates with less than an hour to build a rapport with the hiring manager and show that they’re the best person for the open position.

It’s a complex task to manage, especially with such a short window of time to do it. Forming a relationship over a series of months is much less intense than the short-lived space of a job interview.

Despite the difficulty, building rapport with an interviewer is possible. The following advice can help you achieve it:

  1. Dress for the position. The first impression that an applicant makes in a job interview is with their attire. When you’re hoping to land your dream job, dress for the part. Research what wardrobe is appropriate in the role you’re going for and match that standard.

    While an outfit choice might be the last thing on your mind with an important interview looming, it still needs to be a consideration.

  2. Use the interviewer’s name when appropriate. When you begin a job interview, the hiring manager introduces themselves to you using their name and title.

    If they haven’t done this, be sure to ask what they’d prefer to be called. Once you know their name, keep it in the back of your mind to slide in while answering their questions.

    Avoid overusing an interviewer’s name, but peppering it throughout the conversation a couple of times shows them that you paid attention. It also establishes rapport because you’re addressing them personally when replying.

  3. Ask the right questions. An interviewer usually allows candidates to ask questions at the end of the discussion. Use this time wisely by asking the right questions to build rapport.

    The question portion of an interview is the perfect time to find out more about the interviewer and how they enjoy their role with the company.

    While your questions shouldn’t be overly personal, it’s okay to ask the hiring manager a little information about themselves. It’s a chance to stand out and build a connection beyond the sea of applicants they’ll meet.

  4. Demonstrate glimpses of your personality. The pressure of a job interview makes some candidates’ brilliant personality slip through the cracks in an attempt to be the best option for hire.

    While professionalism is crucial to landing a position, it’s equally important to impress the interviewer with your unique character.

    Allow the hiring manager to see glimpses of your personality, beyond your professional persona, to strengthen rapport in the tight timing of an interview.

Tips for Building Rapport With Anyone

There is an endless number of situations requiring building rapport, and there’s certain advice applicable across the board. Below are a few examples of tips to help create rapport with anyone:

  1. Tap into your empathy. Whether you’re trying to engage with a customer or attempting to ask a crush out on a date, it requires you to tap into your empathy. Empathy is a person’s ability to understand and relate to the way another is feeling.

    This is extremely useful when building rapport with anyone because it puts you in their shoes and gives you direction for where to steer the interaction.

  2. Use small talk. When you want to build rapport with people around you, but you’re not sure how to go about it, using small talk is a great way to start.

    Small talk refers to surface-level conversation topics that allow casual banter to flow. It‘s a classic tool often used in the business world to build rapport.

  3. Inquire about their life light-heartedly. Asking questions about the other party is the route to building rapport with them.

    People enjoy speaking about their lives and hobbies. Asking targeted, yet appropriate, questions in this area demonstrates an interest in who they are besides being your colleague, customer, or interviewer.

Examples of Questions to Ask for Rapport Building

  1. Where are you from? This basic question establishes foundational information about the other person.

    It’s impersonal enough time to be on the level of small talk but gives you a lot of information about the other person. It’s a good question to use early in a conversation because other topics naturally arise, and commonalities can be found.

  2. How long have you been working here? When you’re starting a new job or asking questions during an interview, this is a solid choice to begin an interaction. It sets a standard of understanding between two people but also acts as a springboard for many other questions.

  3. Do you have any exciting plans this weekend? Asking a colleague or customer about their plans for the weekend brings the topic outside of a professional context. This inherently builds a deeper sense of rapport.

  4. Can I help you with anything? Offering assistance to another person is a great way to kick off a positive interaction and build rapport. It paints you as a dependable individual and starts a conversation at the same time.

  5. What’s your favorite section of the bookstore? This is a more interesting way of asking a co-worker what their favorite book is.

    Instead of forcing them into a corner of choosing a single favorite book, it lets them reside in an entire genre. This is a good inquiry to get to know the more intricate parts of someone at work.

  6. How do you recharge after work? Everyone has their own routine for winding down after a stressful day of work. Asking a coworker about their way of recharging after work is a good way to segway into inviting them somewhere outside of the office.

Why Is Building Rapport Important?

A person’s career can’t be constructed solely from their efforts alone. It takes an army of various business connections and opportunities throughout the years to develop their success. That’s why building rapport with people at work is paramount.

There are numerous ways that building rapport enhances an employee’s work life and career trajectory.

A few of the reasons to make an effort with workplace rapport include:

  1. Creates comfortability among a professional team. There’s an undeniable value to a team that functions well together. Teamwork leads to company productivity, innovative ideas, and an overall comfortable atmosphere.

    To reach this point of togetherness on a professional team, there must be some effort made by all parties to build up a rapport.

    Part of being an organized unit is knowing the other members of the team. It makes it easier to delegate tasks to the right person, encourages a free flow of communication, and establishes respect for one another.

  2. You get to know impressive people in the field. There are always co-workers with a little more insight and experience than you have. Instead of being intimidated by the people at work who have more knowledge in the field, look at it as an opportunity.

    Getting to know high-performing employees at your job creates rapport with impressive people who might be able to help your career later on.

  3. Gives the chance to learn from others. There’s a wealth of information at your disposal at work if you have the guts to start a conversation with those around you. Building rapport with people at work also comes with the chance to learn from them.

  4. Exposes you to more business opportunities. Keeping your head down and sticking to only your assigned tasks is no way to get ahead at work. It limits opportunities and creates stagnation.

    No matter what field you’re in, there’s one way to guarantee exposure to more opportunities and further your career. It’s building rapport.

    You never know what incredible job opening or project opportunity that a co-worker could have in store down the line. Your name, skills, and potential linger in their minds years later because you focused on establishing rapport.

  5. Improves interpersonal skills overall. Many situations benefit from having a series of handy transferable social skills in your back pocket. Building rapport at work requires interpersonal skills. Focusing on rapport as a priority at work inherently sharpens social skills overall for a variety of circumstances.

Re-Establishing Rapport

Sometimes rapport is lost with someone. This can happen for a variety of reasons. It may be simple matter of time and space separating you, or it could have been due to differences and arguments.

If you have lost rapport with someone and want to rebuild it, make sure to first understand why rapport was lost in the first place. If time or space is a factor, you can acknowledge that and declare your intentions to reconnect.

If the matter is more complicated, try to figure out what about the situation is in your control and what is not. Take what steps you can to improve the situation. This may require you to apologize or accept another person’s apology. It may require you to take steps to improve your behavior with another.

However, in any case, when rapport is lost, you have to accept that you may not be able to re-establish it. This is OK. As long as you accept this possibility, and you behave in a mature manner, it does not hurt to attempt to re-establish a rapport.

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Sky Ariella

Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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