Rapport is defined as: the quality of harmony, recognition and mutual acceptance that exists between people when they are at ease with one another and where communication is occurring easily. When meeting individuals, we are generally able to shake hands, make eye contact and demonstrate enthusiasm and interest with facial expressions and gestures. But what if we are only ever going to have contact with that individual over the phone or internet? Remote Rapport takes a wide spectrum of possible communication methods and reduces that likes down to one method—verbal communication.
So how do we build rapport with someone we’ve never met, never will meet and cannot see? Attitude and enthusiasm go a long way towards making someone feel engaged and appreciated even over the phone. Our voice and tone are indicators of our level of interest in the person we are speaking to. Having a smile on your face is something that the person on the other end of the phone will be able to notice as it will have a direct impact on your attitude and disposition. Ensure that you’ve taken the time to focus on your conversation and that will let the other person know how important the discussion is to you. Clear off your desk and behave as though you are going into a face to face meeting, even if you’re only communicating over the phone. That will provide a sense of professionalism to your meeting.
With remote rapport, listening skills must be very sharp. Listening to each word as well as inflection and tone is essential. It is important to listen for what is not being said, such as pauses in conversation or hesitation to answer a question. In face to face conversations we can make eye contact and nod to show someone we are listening. Over the phone we need to provide verbal cues that we’re actively listening. Where necessary, send an e-mail after your phone meeting to summarize the conversation. This provides documentation of the conversation and also will assist in clearing up any misunderstandings or miscommunications.
Another way to establish remote rapport is to match the pace of the person you are speaking to. For example, if that individual is speaking very quickly and excitedly, you want to ensure that you are also inflecting some excitement and enthusiasm in your voice.
Rather, it should be a subtle way of matching and mirroring the person you’re talking to. Using some of the same words as the person you’re speaking to can give consistency and be very helpful. For example, if the person describes something as “disappointing”, you could reflect back and say “I understand that this was disappointing for you…” This mirrors the person’s language and also lets them know that you empathize and understand.
It is also important to ensure that your message is strong when speaking over the phone. Scheduling time to have the conversation may help to minimize the other person’s distraction and ensure their interest, speaking in a succinct manner and being respectful of their time. Speaking in a relaxed and friendly manner is one of the best ways to establish remote rapport. A calm and friendly manner will come through to the other person to put them at ease.
Rapport can be established in a remote environment if there is a genuine willingness on the part of both parties to create an open association and to overcome the lack of in-person contact.