How to connect easily and deeply with another person through the verbal, the physical, and through silence.
Rapport is the harmonious connection with another that can happen spontaneously and which we can also consciously help create. In psychological terms this is also known as ‘joining’; more colloquially, you might speak of being ‘tuned in’ or ‘on the same wavelength’ as someone else.
If you know well the person you are visiting or caring for you are probably already tuned into them. And it might be that if they are in physical or emotional pain, you might need to more consciously establish or re-establish rapport. It is even possible to create rapport with someone who is in coma.
Some basic tips to create rapport
* Your physical proximity: There are personal and cultural differences regarding personal space, so sense what is comfortable for the other. Sitting too far away, or moving away while talking, can indicate disinterest or a reluctance to be close. Too close and the other may feel ‘invaded’.
* Eye contact: we make contact with others through our eyes and also convey messages. Be aware that looking away as you speak can suggest indifference to what you are saying or to the person to whom you are speaking; on the other hand, staring fixedly at the other can be experienced as a ‘being bored into’.
* Breathing: Simply notice the pace at which the other is breathing and adjust your breathing accordingly. This is equally effective whether the other is talking, is choosing not to talk, is asleep or in coma.
* Mirroring: as the term suggests this is a copying of the other’s posture and movements. For example, if they rest their head on their hand, you also adopt that pose. However, mirroring needs to be done slowly, sensitively, and as part of your natural movement; otherwise the other may feel you are mimicking them.
* Your voice: The speed at which you speak, the tone, the volume and clarity can all help create a harmonious connection. If the other is agitated, you may ‘mirror’ that, initially, and then by and by slow your own speech down. If there is rapport between you, the other will also begin to slow down. This can then support them in becoming calmer.
* Silence: when the other is silent, match that silence while still paying attention by using appropriate eye contact so that you are seen to be engaged and interested. Continuing to observe their posture, facial expressions and other bodily movements may give you a clue as to what is happening within the other.
No need to feel that you must learn all these pointers all at once. Best is if you can begin to practice them perhaps one at a time and allow them to become integrated into the way you communicate naturally.
See In Rapport Skills for more suggestions how to best communicate when you are visiting someone seriously ill or dying.