How to build rapport

by Jo Flack | 30 Apr 2020

Jo Flack, Trainer of The Mental Health Toolkit by Suffolk Mind, explains how to use your innate resource to build rapport, to help us all meet our emotional needs.

I am a huge fan of Tottenham Hotspur Football club.

How does that opening statement make you feel? Distant from me because you have zero interest in football? Connected with me because you also support the mighty Spurs? Or a bit hostile towards me because you support a rival club?

Whatever your reaction, you have made a pattern match in your mind to my statement and, if your match was positive, then I may have successfully built rapport with you in my first sentence.  

If the match was not so positive, then I may need to work harder to build rapport with you. Building rapport with others can be easier if you have something in common (like a football club). But the truth is we don’t have to have something in common with someone – or even like them- to build rapport.

The ability to build rapport is an innate resource that we all have, which helps us connect, empathise and get along with others. It works with our pattern matching resource and our emotions to help us relate to other people, while also meeting our need for attention, community and emotional connection.

Some people naturally find it easier to build rapport than others. But the ability to build rapport is innate in all of us from birth. Babies are expert rapport builders – those cute gurgles and wide-eyed smiles are calculated to build a connection so that the baby gets fed and gets its other needs looked after.

Developing the skill of establishing and building rapport is just as important in adulthood for getting our needs met well.

So, how can we use our rapport resource to help us all meet our emotional needs?

  1. Being connected with other people helps us feel part of a wider community

  2. Having a conversation with someone can meet our need to exchange positive attention with others

  3. Meaningful interactions with people we care about builds the emotional connection we need to stay well

  4. Listening to others and looking at things from another person’s perspective allows us to value and respect them for who they are and meet their need for status

  5. We can use our empathy to support other people. Being needed by others is one of the ways we can meet our need for meaning and purpose in life

Updated November 2023

by Jo Flack
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