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.

  • Thanks for the heads up, Gumshoe. I’ve fixed it now. :)

  • This is a lovely post! Rapport is such an important aspect of communication. There are tricks on can learn, such as to keep posture similar etc. But true rapport is a function of empathy, that is, the ability to walk in the shoes of others.

  • Jody

    This is advice that I practise as well… i.e. assuming rapport… I find that it is common for people to get suspicious though even though my intent is in no way corrupt… It is interesting how people respond when one “assumes rapport”, especially in different contexts… alot assume the worst e.g. “what does this guy want?” or they have brought into a “reputation” or something… I am an eager learner though…

  • screaminscott


    I agree with you.

  • shyguy

    This doesn’t work.

  • Rahul Singh

    Hinrik sir;
    U said that the first expressions last and also one needs to be them selves.
    So could you suggest me ways in which one could undo the wrong persona which is created to someone else on the first incidence of the meeting in which you acted in your negative side or you may say that your natural behavior at that instance was inappropriate for your friends…..

  • I Hate awkward convos.

    This is good advice,

    but i’ve got some too

  • Paul

    I meet people constantly (sales) who use this approach and frankly it turns me off and appears phony. I’d much rather accept someones awkwardness than someone trying to be my friend.

  • Noroze khan

    its helps me a lot
    to develop my relations
    more strong and successful
    i like this article.

  • Great Post! It’s amazing what a smile can do. It’s so simple, yet so often forgotten.

  • L


  • Well I personally think that this makes it less awkward for conversation.

  • qwerty

    To add my two cents for shy people:
    It’s okay, not everyone is a natural conversationist.The key to overcoming it is practice.When you meet a stranger for a first time and know you won’t ever see them again, you can try to practice on them. This way, even if you make a bad impression, it doesn’t really matter and you can learn from experience.You’ll get better at it after a while, and your confidence will grow.
    Some topics to get your conversations started are maybe about the weather, current issues, school, almost anything, as long as you stay away from sensitive topics. Remember, a conversation isn’t only about you, it involves two people. Make sure you’re paying attention to what they say back and reacting at what they say at the right times. Good luck!