by Arielle Essex

What is rapport?

The Oxford dictionary defines rapport as ‘a harmonious and understanding relationship between people’. The word has been imported from France, where it means connection, respect, regard, agreeing with and being on good terms with someone.

It’s obvious that rapport happens between people who naturally like each other. What may be less obvious is how great leaders command such high levels of rapport that they can wield tremendous influence through their charismatic power alone.

Rapport usually involves being agreeable. When people are in rapport with each other, they tend to match each other, compatibly working together and accepting similar ideas. It is almost as if they mirror each other. Confusingly, some people mirror each other by being disagreeable and argumentative – that’s their style!

But there is more to the whole field of exercising rapport than simply being agreeable. In essence, there are two main aspects to exercising rapport-building skills – see Approachability and credibility – and managers need to master both if they are to be great leaders.

Rapport on different levels

Rapport is not simply a matter of relating to other people: it exists naturally on different levels.


Fundamentally, you need to be in rapport with yourself, your values, beliefs and objectives. Whenever you don’t act in accordance with these, your conscience kicks in with negative feelings and you radiate incongruence, due to the internal conflict.


If you are going to enjoy whatever you are doing, you need to have rapport with or feel comfortable within your environment – college, work place, sports field or holiday resort. In other words, your environment should be a place which fits your criteria, triggers pleasant memories or has an appealing atmosphere.

Shared activity

You get a sense of rapport with other people when you work or play together compatibly – even when there’s competition. This involves shared outcomes, compatible strategies and a willingness to work together as a team.

Beliefs and values

You feel rapport on a deeper level when you share similar beliefs and values, either with another person or with an organisation. This becomes important the closer you work or live together, and the effect increases with the length of time involved.

Group identity

When you join a group of like-minded people, you all share the rapport of a common identity, which automatically includes some common values. Your ‘club’ or department might have a special name, wear a particular style of clothing or scarves of a certain colour, or have its own special jargon or slang. There will be something that marks out this group of people as belonging together and separate from others.

As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.

Bill Gates


Rapport on this level involves seeing beyond the external behaviours that are being demonstrated, connecting with a higher level of understanding, sharing a vision for what can be achieved, envisioning an ideal future and contributing beyond the normal realm of activity. This generates a spiritual level of rapport that extends beyond personal boundaries and needs.

Can rapport be learned?

Can rapport be learned or is it a quality you are born with?

While it is true that some lucky people have a natural aptitude for generating good rapport, these skills can definitely be learned. Even when you are already good at rapport, you can improve. And even if you are a complete klutz, the good news is that these skills are easy to practise and get good at.

The specific behaviours that create rapport must be founded on a genuine willingness to build good relationships for the right reasons.