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.

Free Exclusive Happiness Tips

Join the 80,000 people that subscribe to the Positivity Newsletter and you’ll get practical tips on happiness, self-esteem, productivity and more each week.

You’ll also get these three guides for free:

  • 21 Things I Wish They Had Taught Me in School.
  • 7 Steps to Stop Being So Lazy.
  • 10 Things You Can Do When Life Sucks.

100% privacy and no spam. You can unsubscribe anytime.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Great post – This is great advise for anyone who wants to be a better conversationalist.


  • Joaquin

    I liked your article. Actually, I learned to build rapport this way before, but my problem is that somehow I can not establish a good friendship. Do you have any suggestions?

  • Very good insight. It is true that when we expect to have a good rapport, we will have a good rapport. In addition, if we have love in our heart for any person we are meeting, we will definitely get along well, and there will be no uncomfort.


    My Positivity Blog

  • I think we all seek to create rapport with others, but our social conditioning puts all kinds of barriers in the way for us.

    Your article reminded me of this article I read on the BBC website a few days ago – surey the universal popularity of this person shows that deep down we all just want acceptance.

  • Thanks for all the great comments, guys.

    Joaquin: I don’t know what your specific problem is but one problem I think is quite common is to not bring enough value yourself to the table. It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing too much attention on yourself and not listening enough or opening up and sharing. Then it can be hard to build a good connection.

    But I don’t know what your specific problem is so I’d recommend that you perhaps do some reading and try to find and identify a solution yourself. A good starting point is How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie. You can probably find it in your local library or bookstore.

  • Jose Sotelo

    Great answer to the suggestions, “just be yourself”

  • I find this helps me a lot on the phone too. I try to smile while I’m dialing the number or when I answer the phone. It really helps set the tone of the conversation later.

  • Naomi, I agree… Yes, your emotions and energy will subconsciously be transferred to the other party on the phone!

    SJ Yee
    Personal Development for the Book Smart

  • Locutus

    There is some good advice in this article. Unfortunately “being yourself” is usually the problem and not the solution. How many people aren’t like this:
    – I hate smalltalk
    – I don’t want to meet, let alone like this person
    – I just want to get this over as quick as possible
    – What’s with all that noise coming out of your mouth?

    If the above describes “being yourself”, being yourself is not gonna cut it.

  • Nice article.

    Expecting a good response from the other person. The other person usually has a natural instinct to reciprocate.

  • Makes a lot of sense to me.

    Good relationships are good business.

  • Just-In-Here

    Great article! Thanks for the great tips :)

  • gumshoe

    Good article. You’ve got a paragraph repeated twice though :-)

  • Henrik I liked the post. It’s good you mentioned professional settings as well. I could see using this technique in job interviews to help people feel more relaxed and be more effective.


  • Sarah

    This is good advice. In addition to making the interaction go well for the person you’re with, it’s more enjoyable for yourself to feel relaxed, even if it is based on a mental “trick”. It can be hard for introverts to enjoy the company of new people; it is helpful to remind oneself that company can be relaxing instead of stressful!