When you're negotiating that big business deal, there's an essential element you absolutely must have: trust.
Each side in the negotiation has to believe, to the core, that the other person/team will follow through on what they say they're going to do. Sure, you might have a contract, but in reality it's just ink on a page; what's really important is the relationship between the two sides doing business together.
Sometimes you immediately trust someone, and you may not know why. You'll feel like you're "on the same page," "of the same mind," or "on the same wavelength." These are all ways of saying you both have rapport.
Rapport is the feeling that you both "get it." You both understand each other fully.
Rapport is essentially "reflected empathy." You've put yourself in the other person's headspace, see the world through their eyes, and communicate that understanding through your verbal & non-verbal communication.
Missing the Mark
Most "body language experts" (scare quotes used on purpose) will tell you if you want to establish rapport with someone, that you should mirror their body language. If they cross their arms, you should cross your arms. If they lean against the wall, you should lean against the wall.
You can usually tell who blindly follows this advice because they're so obvious about it.
Their attempt to come across as trustworthy winds up backfiring. It goes wrong because they lack empathy. This results in a robotic mimicking of the other person's actions, and it weirds us out just like a human-like android does.
(To understand exactly why this is so unsettling to us, look into the uncanny valley.)
Shortcut to Empathy
If the shortcut to rapport is empathy, then the shortcut to empathy is listening.
So few people are excellent listeners that if you can even pay the smallest amount of attention to someone, they'll feel like the most important person in the world.
Genuinely listen, consider what the other person says, cultivate an empathetic understanding of their position, reflect that viewpoint, and they'll feel like you understand them.
This will come across in your tone of voice, the words you use (similar to theirs), your posture, amount of personal space, and so on.
And remember, in order to get something, you first have to give something.
The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. ~Ernest Hemingway
How About You?
Have you ever experienced instant rapport with someone? Felt like you'd been friends forever? I'd love for you to tell me about it. What was it like? How do you think you build rapport with people? Let me know on Facebook.