Rapport is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language as a noun meaning relationship, especially of mutual trust or inherent emotional similarity or natural personal attraction.
In psychology it is considered an important feature or aspect of subconscious human interaction. It relates to commonality of peoples viewpoints and thought processes that harmonize with each other.
In the field of Neuro Linguistic Programming it is taught rapport can be obtained with the control of body functions like breathing, hand-body-face gestures and eye movement. It is thought that if you follow or match the person your trying to gain rapport with in these functions (respiratory rate and depth for instance) you will gain rapport.
Additionally developing skills like active listening will further enhance this ability.
The ability to attain rapport in a one on one situation is self evident. The question we need to ask, is rapport possible for a speaker with an audience. Can a speaker learn how to connect with the audience on both a conscious and a subconscious level?
To prove the reality of rapport to a large audience, if you watched the movie AI and saw the little boy robot laying at the bottom of the pool how did you feel. On knowing it was a robot, did your feelings change.
Or Robin Williams in Millennium Man, did you feel a connection with him as a robot. It was just a movie.
"Be yourself, everyone else is taken."
How about Star Wars. Did you feel empathy when you saw C3PO and R2D2 were being hurt? These were just robots. It was all special effects.
Yet the story and words were so compelling, you had feelings for the people or actually the robots they were portraying. That feeling, those emotions were rapport.
Yes, even with out special effects and the multi-million dollar contract, you can develop rapport.
The first concern with rapport has to do with the first pillar of great speaking. It has to do with what you say.
Take the audience down the path of something they will find agreement with or comfort in. Validate their feelings and conclusions. Approve of them.
Then offer new ways to accomplish the goal within the frame work of what they think is acceptable. In other words, within the same wave length.
Look for the same wave length words that will keep the spam filters of our mind turned off and the receptors open. Look for words that build mutual trust. Words that build relationship.
Relationship building words might include sincere praise. Honest compliments could work. Hearty commendations too. Use what will allow the audience to see you as seeing them in their world. Any words that allow you to connect to them.
One word of caution. It has to be sincere and honest. An audience will be able to discern insincerity. It is essential to be yourself.
To create emotional similarity or natural personal attraction mirror the style of words they use. Don’t use words above or below their socioeconomic level. Talk and use the words as if you were one of them.
Don't imitate colloquialisms unless you're a native speaker.
For instance, how would you tell someone they have a terminal illness? Think about this one. How would you want to be told?
More importantly, how would you tell someone else so as to deliver the message how they would like to be told. How would you tell it if you were a parent, a grown child, an employer, an employee telling a fellow employee? What words would you use?
Consider the words to use to build rapport with an audience. The ones they will want to hear. But don't over do it so much that you appear as familiar unless you are. Act as though you're a guest who has been told to make your self at home but still recognizing that you’re a guest.
One caveat, if they are not out going and friendly, still use a friendly conversational style. Be friendly but tone it down.
Use expressions and words that express the commonality of viewpoints. This is one of the reasons it is important to know your audience. To attain commonality you need to meet and greet. But that is not enough. You need to ask viewpoint questions.
To find viewpoints and save the individuals from feeling like your putting them on the spot, ask questions related to what popular opinion is. What are the feelings of the folks/ people/ the neighbors/ the community/or what ever you pick up on as the local way of referring to the audience at large.
Talk to your audience in the most universal perceptual mode.What are perceptual modes?
To tap into the most dominant mode, talk visual. This is the most common form or mode of processing among all cultures. We all process in all modes. We all have our dominant. This is the mode to best reach the masses.
This is why it is important to develop the speaker skill of illustrations. They are not only powerful in adding memory, they are one of the basic ways people process information.
Bonus. If you can naturally weave all different modes into the four listening styles you will be sure to be a hit. Sometimes it is not possible. Sometimes the information does not readily lend it’s self to it.
Remember the goal is to harmonize your speech with their speech and way of thinking. Your trying to attain create a harmony between your words and their minds. It needs to flow like music.
Now, lets give attention to the second pillar of great speech.
It involves mutual trust.
To attain emotional trust of your audience you need to know their emotions. Your speech needs to originate from the same emotional platform.
For instance, a teacher may have a set of preconceptions regarding the way parents train, discipline and otherwise mold the lives of the little ones they teach. The teacher may or may not be right about some but not necessarily all parents. The parents will fall somewhere in a continuum of good to poor parenting skills.
If the teacher looks at the parents with the preconception of being poor in parenting skills, unless a Oscar caliber actor, the presentation wave length will not harmonize with the majority of parents. That is because we give off signals as to what we truly believe within our speech. The ones she does connect with will have further fuel to look down on the others.
If however the teacher approaches the audience from the viewpoint they are doing all they can, it will be possible to connect with a majority of the audience.
Consider this. Teacher would first have to frame a viewpoint that if a parent was doing the best they knew how to, they were doing the best they could. If a parent was doing the best they physically could, be it economic reasons, physical limitations, or educational reasons, then no improvement would be possible.
That is, without further training. There is room for improvement. However, it is not the teachers place to improve the world. The only improvement purview is the children.
So in speaking to the audience from a kind, empathetic, and understanding viewpoint, they would relate to the teacher as a concerned party. The first harmonization on the way to making rapport has been taken. Harmonizing with the audiences view of the world they live in.
Next comes the inherent emotional similarity. Nobody loves the children more than the parents. When that love is shown within the smile and audience contact of the speaker in relation to the children, a connection is made. A harmonization takes place. The audience feel like we can trust this teacher with our children. They will love them almost as much as the parents will.
Then comes natural personal attraction. If the teacher can love the children, then can the same emotions be extended to the audience. Relate it to being an aunt or uncle to the children. What does the audience now become to you. Your brothers and sisters.
The commonality of peoples viewpoints and thought processes that harmonize with each other is the final harmonization. Here, even if viewpoints are diametrically opposed, if as a speaker, it is possible to frame the opposing viewpoint within one that can be accepted or embraced, you will have one of the essential elements needed to attain rapport.
Finally, the third pillar.
To add the final element, mirror and approximate their movements. To do this, if they are rather rigid and formal, be formal, if they are out going and friendly, be that from the platform. Let your body language talk to them the way their body language is talking to you.
It is never wrong to wear a suit when speaking. However, think in terms of what kind of suit is appropriate. If you overdress when speaking to a humble audience, you may alienate yourself from your audience.
It is not a trick. While it is a gift for some, it can be learned. It will take practice, experimentation and constant experience. It requires constant and never ending improvement. Can anyone learn it? Anyone who is willing to apply them selves can.
This is said from personal experience. When you have someone come up to you and they express how your speech touched them. How somehow you got inside their mind and got them to turn off their filters. How your speaking got them to consider or even accept something that was otherwise a closed issue, you will know you have attained rapport.
Best wishes on attaining speech mastery.
PS. If you know someone who would benefit from this, why not share this with them.
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