by Nikki Owen

Sensory awareness

Charismatic managers have the ability to create a lasting impression on others because they are able to ‘connect’ at a deep level. The Love Study underpins the power of connecting. The ability to build rapport is a vitally important part of influencing and creating a charismatic team of individuals, under a charismatic manager, who can out-perform non-charismatic teams.

When communication between two or more individuals reaches its optimum, it’s said that perfect rapport has been established. On the other hand, when communicating with an individual is hard, it is probable that what is missing is rapport.

Some people we meet may inspire an instant connection and immediate trust, while another person can be very polite and charming, yet we don’t feel any connection with them and our communication feels unnatural. When two or more people meet, they immediately start an automatic process of comparison with the other. If the outcome of this process is an assessment that the other person is similar in some way, then rapport is established. When people are in a state of rapport, they tend to respond more easily to our instructions, suggestions and influence.

Key point

Rapport is often seen as the foundation of charismatic leadership. The moment a charismatic leader has established a connection, they can influence and lead the other person in the direction they want them to move towards.

Building rapport

We have an inbuilt tendency to conform to another person’s behaviours; if we instinctively feel that conforming is possible, then we will start the process of building rapport. This process happens instinctively and can be evidenced by people starting to share the same mannerisms, voice qualities and gestures. This means that when two people are in rapport, they show a tendency toward a behavioural compromise.

It’s easy to spot two close friends who share similar gestures, facial expressions, verbal expressions and postures to such a degree that they could be mistaken as being closely related. This is due to the fact that the long-term mutual rapport creates a strong behavioural bond. Even when these two friends disagree on something, they manage to keep rapport alive.

The process we use unconsciously to build rapport can be replicated with conscious awareness. This process can be likened to matching and mirroring a person’s behaviour to create a perceived likeness. When we match a person’s mood, gestures and facial expressions, we are better equipped to start experiencing how they feel at any given moment. As we do this, the person interacting with us will find mirrored in us their emotional state and their way of living at that moment, and all this will increase the chances that they will see in us someone that they can trust.

Once we have built sufficient rapport, it then becomes possible to lead a person towards where we would like them to go, or what we would like them to do. At an unconscious level they will know that by refusing it (shown by not matching or mirroring you), they will be refusing to build rapport. Through unconscious identification they are already convinced that you are experiencing what they are experiencing, therefore they will feel that anything you are doing they can do as well.

Below are some suggestions that can help your rapport-building skills. There is more about rapport building in the Rapport topic.

  • The quickest way to build rapport is to match the other person’s rate of breathing.
  • By matching a person’s breathing, you’ll find it easier to match their voice qualities, which also helps build rapport.
  • If you use peripheral vision (expanded awareness, similar to the one used when driving a car), you become more aware of the smallest details about the other person.
  • You don’t necessarily need to match each gesture exactly: you can match a pen tapping movement with a foot tapping movement, at the same pace.
  • Paying attention to the other person really helps build rapport, because the more you notice, the more you can match.
  • Take a genuine interest in getting to know what’s important to the other person. Start to understand them rather than expecting them to understand you first.
  • Pick up on their key words, favourite phrases and way of speaking and build these subtly into your own conversation.
  • Notice how someone likes to handle information. Do they like lots of detail or just the big picture? As you speak, feed back information in this same portion size.

Rapport versus force

Another way to ‘connect’ with individuals is to get them to ‘comply’ with what you want them to do. This approach was used extensively by Robert Maxwell. He appeared almost to ‘force’ others into doing what he wanted. Once an individual has ‘complied’ once, they automatically find it easy to comply time and time again – like a conditioned and automated response pattern.

Whether charismatic leaders use rapport or compliance to build connections, both methods are extremely effective, yet rapport manages to preserve and build higher levels of self-esteem in the longer term.