The Real Thing: 9 Ways Successful People Build Rapport


Recall a time when you are the outsider—trying to find real ways to connect with the crowd, feeling different, and fumbling to find topics of mutual interest.

Crowds can be a lonely place.

They are full of people who are different from us. It’s easier to spend time with others who are similar because they think, say, and do things in a way we understand. Communication and relationship building in comfortable situations take little effort.

Make Meaningful Connections

When we’re the outsiders, it’s not usually the crowd that’s the problem. Difficulties arise when we attempt to drill down and build rapport with individuals, one on one. This is when results can become unpredictable.

If we can’t predict the outcome, we can’t guarantee that we’ve successfully communicated that that individual.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter, but sometimes it does—a new client or a new deal may hinge on whether or not you’ve built rapport and made a meaningful connection.

FBI Lessons

As an FBI counterintelligence agent, the final phase of the recruitment process concentrated on neutralizing my target’s objections and concerns about working for the U.S. government. Invariably, this phase meant meeting my target (the spy I was trying to recruit) face-to-face in an attempt to build trust and rapport.

You may find a similar need to build trust and rapport as you meet a potential partner or new client with the hope of convincing them that joining your team would create value for everyone.

The right communications skills will help you find the links between their goals and values and yours.

People who are successful at creating bonds with others understand that it’s never about them—it’s about the person standing in front of them.

Cultivating the Art of Giving

Effective communication is the talent of giving.

Successful collaborators cannot be selfish; instead, they give their full attention to the other person and make them feel comfortable. The reason is simple: we influence each other through everything we do. In face-to-face conversations, everything becomes more intense and more personal.

The more comfortable a person feels, the more likely they’ll trust you. And when they trust you, they’re more likely to want to do business with you.

Getting Comfortable

Here are ways successful people make others feel comfortable with them:

1. First Impressions

We begin to influence people the minute they see us. It’s important to pay attention to dress and grooming because they are telling a tale long before we open our mouths. They reveal whether or not we still need adult supervision.

Pay attention to the way you dress—it shows good judgment and a respect for others. It also shows whether or not we’re clueless about social conventions.

2. Smile

For a smile to be genuine, the skin needs to crinkle around the eyes. So, for professional reasons—please, no Botox. A fake smile can be spotted a mile away, because while the mouth may be imitating one, if the cheeks don’t push up, you are not being genuine.

Smiles send clear messages about your state of mind. When you meet people, think pleasant thoughts.

Deepen your crow’s feet and call them laugh lines. No one wants to spend time with a grump—or worse, a fake.

3. Gait

The way we walk and the eagerness of our gait lets others know whether or not we care.

The speed and eagerness of your walk lets others know that you know your mind, manage your time, and mean business.

4. Handshake

  • Keep in mind that palms up indicate submission while palms down indicate dominance. Make sure your hand is in a vertical position when shaking hands.
  • Apply the same pressure you receive.
  • Maintain eye contact throughout the handshake.

5. Eye Gaze

Eye contact is extremely important. You are safe as long as your gaze rests upon the person’s eyes, mouth, or chin.

If your gaze comes across as arrogant or too intense, you risk building rapport with the individual.

6. Commonality

Assume you have something in common with the other person. The best negotiators spend approximately half their time finding shared interests with the other party.

  • Find their passions. Start with children, travel, or food.
  • Uncover a shared interest with the other person. Flit from topic to topic until you find it.
  • Prepare for individuals in the crowd by searching social media. You can read their latest thoughts on a variety of topics.

7. Repeat 

After listening to a person speak, make sure to repeat a very brief synopsis of what they just said. It alerts the speaker to the fact that you’ve paid close attention and that you’ve followed the points they made.

Use their name in conversation – but only occasionally.

This is also an effective way of listening. Repeating statements or summaries of a conversation helps you to remember the salient points. It also provides an opportunity for any miscommunication in the conversation to be addressed sooner rather than later.

8. Approve

A simple, affirmative, gesture indicates that you’ve been listening and that you agree with their statement. Even if you have an element of disagreement with it, focus on what you do agree with and nod in approval of that aspect of the statement.

Everyone likes to feel as though they’ve been heard, and even if disagreements come up, give the impression that you genuinely listened to their point of view.

9. Tonality

  • Match the tone of their voice.
  • Talk at their volume levels.
  • Pay attention to whether they are soft-spoken or loud.

These are 9 ways that can help you build rapport and make meaningful connections. If we’ve successfully communicated with the other person, we are in a better position to predict their response to us.

What tips can you share on how to build rapport? How does doing business in foreign cultures make a difference in the way we build rapport? How do you know when you’ve effectively communicated your message?

LaRae Quy is former FBI Agent and Founder at Your Best Adventure
She helps clients explore the unknown and discover the hidden truth in self & others
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Blog

Image Sources:

L2L Contributing Author


  1. DIANE on July 19, 2011 at 3:23 am

    Very well written article.I value all your steps mentioned here.Thank you very much indeed.

  2. Scott Crandall on July 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    One of the things I teach — in order to make good eye contact upon meeting — is to ask myself: “What color are their eyes?” Having to know the answer to that question will ensure that I make good eye contact. It’s a tip that works.

  3. Chadwick Taylor on July 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Very good article. I never paid attention to the position of my hand during a handshake. Now I will!! Thanks again for the steps. All were helpful.

    • LaRae Quy on July 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm

      Thanks for the great feedback – glad to hear you’re taking those handshakes more seriously . . . 🙂

      LaRae Quy 415.609.0608 [email protected]

      Visit the website at

  4. […] The Real Thing: 9 Ways Successful People Build Rapport ( […]