by Arielle Essex

Rapport, congruence and you

However good a person may be technically at building rapport, if they are not congruent – if the rapport is not being established with integrity – other people will sooner or later pick up on this.

Rapport with yourself must come first

First, you must establish a congruent inner rapport with your own values and objectives. You need to know why you want to do what you do, what purpose you are trying to fulfil, and how doing your job and working with others forms a crucial part of your personal plan. Once you have this foundation, you will begin to radiate the type of clarity that generates trust. Then you will also feel more motivated to interact in ways that move you towards your objectives. (For more about clarity of purpose, see the topic on Goal Setting.)

Without this inner congruence, there’s a tendency to vacillate, prevaricate, confuse and disagree with others as a matter of habit. If your own mind is full of conflict, your inner confusion will transmit itself to others and give them an advantage over you.

Some people mistakenly believe that having a disagreeable nature promotes discussion and healthy controversy. In fact, others experience them as tiresome and objectionable. They may excuse their habit by saying they like to ‘play the devil’s advocate’, but the reality is that their debates serve another purpose: to hide the fact that they lack inner congruence with their own values. The extreme version of this, called ‘polarity responding’, is the person who must disagree with everything that is said, even if someone repeats back the exact words that he just said himself! Teenagers are good at this because they haven’t yet clarified their values or forged their own identity; in the case of certain people, this behaviour gets carried on into adulthood.

Sincerity and rapport

Rapport does not mean being nice all the time. The parody of the sleazy salesman oozing insincere charm while trying to manipulate customers sometimes gets confused with rapport. Similarly, some people think that to be liked, they need to be nice to everyone all the time, and always agree with everything that is said. But such behaviour does not generate rapport. Phoney behaviour of this type ensures lack of trust and poor relationships.

True rapport starts with being in tune with your own highest values and objectives. Good sales people know that selling is about developing a trusting relationship with their customers. They know and believe in the quality of their product. When their product best meets the customer’s needs, they have an obligation to let the customer know that, which has little to do with charm or persuasion. Admittedly, a good sales person uses the approachable skills of rapport to get to know the customer, share their knowledge and discover whether the customer’s needs are compatible with their product. But someone who is too nice or too agreeable all the time will come across as insincere, incongruent and untrustworthy.

Are rapport skills manipulative?

All human beings are manipulative by nature. A newborn baby knows that a winning smile or a cry will work wonders at bringing forth the nipple. The journey through life has already taught you all kinds of tricks to get your way. Being manipulative is not necessarily bad. Sometimes, the end justifies the means. The aim of developing rapport skills is to ensure that your behaviour stays so congruent with your values that you can increase your efficiency and effectiveness.

The pejorative connotation of ‘being manipulative’ actually refers to those people who will stop at nothing to satisfy their own objectives at the expense of everyone else. In fact, this violates the concept of rapport, which begins with matching your deepest values with those of others, and then working from agreement to reach a place of mutual aspiration or a desired outcome.