This week I attended a workshop in London. Run by the PRCA the topic of discussion was communication, and much of the conversation focused on building rapport and recognising body language. The speaker also asked us to throw away our preconceptions and pay attention to the old adage “you can’t judge a book by looking at the cover” (does anyone else remember that Yardbirds song?…).
By the end of the day I was amazed by what I had discovered, and how simple and natural it all is. So in the spirit of sharing I wanted to use this blog to relay some of my key rapport learnings. Some of them may seem very obvious, but if you read on you may just learn something new.
First and foremost, to build rapport we need to reflect the person we are speaking to- but don’t copy them exactly, that’s liable to scare them! When you want to end the conversation, stop reflecting them, rapport will then break down and the conversation will hopefully come to a natural stopping point.
The second point was more disheartening, but only if you choose to take it that way. We’ve all struggled with that difficult ‘chit-chat’ when we’ve first met someone, and sometimes it never seems to get better. The message here is that it may never improve. If you have nothing in common with a person then rapport is impossible to build. At this point, stop trying to reflect their body language, find a good excuse and move on. The upside to this seemingly bleak message is that there is nothing wrong with you; you are not a failure, a boring or inadequate person. Good to know don’t you think?
Thirdly, if you’re sitting down and the person speaking to you is standing you cannot build rapport. The person standing will have the upper hand and will dominate the conversation. In order to equal the balance you need to find a way to bring them down to your level, or an excuse to rise to theirs.
Finally, it’s all about the hands and gesticulation. Using both hands indicates that the person is comfortable in the conversation. A palm facing up is a friendly gesture while a palm facing down can create a sense of force or power. If you want to make your point, keep those palms down! Oh, and stop clutching your hands in a fist, subconsciously others will notice the whiteness around your knuckles and recognise that you are nervous. Think…BBC presenter. This goes for the way you stand too by the way.
So concludes my short summary. As this covers only a small portion of the workshop I would absolutely recommend that if you want to work on building your communication confidence then you should attend the PRCA ‘Improving communications skills for PR professionals’ course. It’s an eye-opening experience and essential for every PR professional.