How to Have Less Awkward Conversations: Assuming Rapport

How to Have Less Awkward Conversations: Assuming Rapport
Image by kalandrakas.

Assuming rapport. This is definitely one of the best social skill tips I have ever learned about. Unfortunately I’ve forgotten a bit about it lately. Maybe you have too. Or missed it altogether. So I thought I’d bring it up again.

Now, what is assuming rapport?

Basically, instead of going into a conversation or meeting nervously and thinking “how will this go?” you take different approach. You assume that you and the person(s) will establish a good connection (rapport).

How do you do that?

You simply pretend that you are meeting one of your best friends. Then you start the interaction in that frame of mind instead of the nervous one.

I have found that this advice is surprisingly useful and easy to implement.

Just before the meeting, you just think that you’ll be meeting a good friend. Then you’ll naturally slip into a more comfortable, confident and enjoyable emotional state and frame of mind.

This also helps you and the other people to set a good frame for the interaction. A frame is always set in the at the start of an interaction. It might be a nervous and stiff frame, a formal and let’s-get-to-the-point kind of frame or perhaps a super relaxed one.

The thing is that the frame that is set in the beginning of the conversation is often one that may stay on for a while. First impressions last.

If it’s a very stiff frame then it may very well continue to be so until the end. It can be quite difficult to for instance change that frame into a more relaxed one. Often people – you and the others – adapt to the frame that is set and interact within it. Breaking or changing that frame may feel uncomfortable or a bit weird.

And so you and the others can become reluctant to do so and instead just play along.

First impressions last

So setting a good frame at the very beginning can bring more enjoyment and better results out of any kind of meeting.

That’s one of the reasons why it’s so useful to smile when you first meet someone. And it’s also important to consider that the impression made and frame set may not just last during the first conversation. It may continue throughout your relationship with this new friend, classmate or co-worker.

Now, meeting your best friend might not always be the best thing to think about before a meeting.

If it’s a meeting at work or in school then you may need to have use a more formal frame (for instance without hugs and the relaxed attitude you have with friends).

In that case you may want to try to imagine a similar meeting that went well and your interactions with the people there.

If you go into a conversation with the right frame of mind a lot of the problems you may have encountered before or created outside and inside your mind just never come up.

Much of communication is non-verbal and can be difficult to manually correct in a conversation.

But when you go in with a positive and relaxed energy then that is fed into the interaction by you using your non-verbal communication – like your voice tonality and body language – in good way.

Just be yourself

When you’re with your friend you don’t think about what you should say next or what funny comment you could pull out of your sleeve. You just stay in the present moment, moment by moment, and the conversation flows easily and naturally.

I think this is what some people mean when they give the often confusing advice to “just be yourself”. When your friends give you that advice then they may mean that you should be like you are when you are hanging out with us.

They want to see you bring out your natural and relaxed self in other interactions.

One final useful thing about assuming rapport is that you may also start to feel positive feelings towards this new person, just as you do with your friend when you meet him/her.

This is a pretty good starting point for getting the new person to reciprocate and for developing a good relationship.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • boastock

    Great article, but there’s one thing I don’t get.
    What if when you’re with friends you do have to think how to bee funny and what to say next, and it doesn’t just flow naturally?

  • orange peels banana

    This is indeed a good article. Oddly enough, just last night I was talking to an acquaintance of mine that I would like to become better friends with, but felt myself start to think about what I should say next, or if I even had anything good to say that wasn’t completely forced. Then in a split second decision I just decided to act like I had known her for years. It worked well. Very well.
    I do have one criticism of the article. It may seem petty, but some typos and the punctuation (or lack there of) made it difficult to read at points. A bit of proofreading can go a long way! Thanks.

  • Alex

    I hope this works I am meeting up with this girl that I really really like and I want to make a very relaxed and good impression on her I plan on trying to use this tecneque tommorow

  • Justine

    Good article; however, should be “How to Have *Fewer* Awkward Conversations.” “Less” is for something you can’t count, like “I have less milk in my glass than I had five minutes ago.” “Fewer” is when you can count it; “There are fewer cards in this deck than there should be.”

    Unless you mean “How to Have Conversations that Are, On Average, Less Awkward Than I Was Once Accustomed To.” In which case you’re fine.

  • Good article. Specially i support your point where u try to say, people need to be in comfortable mood before any serious meeting or conversation. Otherwise everything may go wrong.
    Thanks for your article.

  • F. D. A.

    Aside from your continuous grammar mistakes (and some spelling errors here and there), I don’t like the way you present this post. I’ve read your other posts and they present a clear order of how to perform the advice you give.

    It seems rather difficult to “simply pretend that you are meeting one of your best friends”. Human emotions go far beyond our thinking of them, to the point where a lack of trust in the other person will make it difficult to establish a fluent conversation.

    I haven’t yet found a way to avoid awkward conversations, but I don’t think things like “[…] you just think that you’ll be meeting a good friend”, and “just be yourself” will get anyone anywhere. Just be yourself is one of the most overstated things that are easier said than done. The truth is most people go through life without paying attention to themselves and what they really feel and want, therefore not being themselves but a confluence of forces.

    I really hope you read this. I leave not my e-mail for privacy.

  • B D G

    But what if you have the problem of being awkward even with your friends? I have a problem where I do fine in a conversation until I think about awkwardness. Its irritating because conversation doesnt seem to last too long because it doesnt take long before I think about awkwardness. And then I run out of things to talk about. If Im not thinking about that its fine. How can I stop..?

  • Anonymous

    Do what you want.
    And say what you will.
    Because those who mind don’t matter.
    And those who matter don’t mind. – Dr. Seuss

  • Great topic. Rapport is the key to good conversations and good relationships. In addition to the broad framework discussed in this post, there are a couple of specific ways to develop and increase rapport in a conversation almost immediately.

    Specifically, duplicating (not mimicing) the other person’s body language, voice patterns, language, and other conversational habits sends the unconscious message that you are like him or her. Its important to remember that mimicing can be very detrimental, but matching is generally rapport building. The more naturally you can match the other person, the more effective the technique.

    Showing genuine interest and empathy for what the other person is saying is also huge for short term rapport building. If you spend the entire conversation thinking of responses and focusing on yourself, rapport can be very difficult to build.

    Long term or lasting rapport building is about developing trust, which is a much deeper topic in itself.

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