How To Build Rapport When You’re Working Remotely
During the last 12 months of working from home, how many times has your first conversation with someone been online? You know…that initial chat at the start of a relationship that might previously have been face-to-face over a coffee in the office, but is now done sitting at your laptop on a Zoom video.
For me, the number would be pretty high. But while those interactions have been a little more stilted than if they’d been in person (dodgy Wi-Fi is the bane of my life) my ability to build rapport is the same as ever.
Why isn’t it hampered?
To use the words of an ex-client of mine Russell Dalgleish, you should “go into every conversation as if you’re already half-way through” – which is exactly what I do. So whether we’re meeting for the first time or the hundredth, you’ll get the same chatty, down-to-earth, irreverent person from the get-go.
Why’s that important?
Building rapport (and with it, a relationship) is all about finding common ground, reaching mutual understanding and displaying empathy. You can’t do that if all you’re putting forward is your formal, professional persona without any of the human side that goes with it.
Here’s what I’m talking about…
To explain what I mean, here are three interactions I had via video call last week where I didn’t hang around to get the rapport building:
- I’d arranged to speak to a potential client and as soon as she appeared on my screen, I noticed something on the wall behind her. My first words became, “Hello there. Nice to meet you. I see you have cats.” She was surprised I’d known the lopsided shelves were for her feline and I replied my sister had something similar for her cats. Instantly, I knew something about her, and she about me.
- When a new client came online, her bold patterned top immediately caught my eye. The first thing I said was, “Wow! I’m loving the leopard-print!” We ended up swapping war stories of shopping for clothes online – not just the successes but the definite fails.
- Another new client appeared with a virtual background comprising her company’s logo. I immediately commented I was impressed it was on-brand, which led her to reveal she was using it to hide the Lego models in the background that her husband has on display. Which in turn led to a whole conversation about our own nerdish past-times.
In each instance, despite the newness of the relationship, I started the conversation as if we were already in the middle. The rapport flowed and the relationship strengthened a lot quicker than if I’d taken the formal approach.
What works for you when it comes to building rapport remotely? Do you have any conversation starters to recommend? Or other ways of approaching it? If you share them here other readers can then benefit from your wisdom. Thank you.
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