As remote work gets further entrenched in the day-to-day construction world, you might feel your established relationships slipping away. It starts out subtle enough. You gradually begin interacting in person less, and people stop sharing so much about their lives. Maybe you’ve noticed a drop in engagement. Perhaps people are now less inclined to say what’s on their minds. What you’re witnessing here is a breakdown in rapport.
Rapport relies on mutual trust and is the glue of strong, sharing relationships. When we identify with shared feelings, we have a basis for honest, open communication.
But beware, you can misuse rapport if the intent is purely selfish. It’s natural to want to maintain rapport for business, but focusing just on business offers only half the value, and could work against you in the long term. People will quickly pick up on rapport efforts intended to manipulate.
So, once you check your intentions, here are some tactics for building and maintaining positive rapport.
Show & Tell
Make your online meetings, and more of your interactions in general, visual.
When you chat or use email, nobody is getting the full message. That’s because facial expressions and tone of voice don’t exist in a text interchange. Today, there are multiple online options for meeting. Using the video features of those tools is one way to help maintain rapport, allowing all participants to get more than a simple textual message.
A note of caution, though, is to avoid making the visual aspect of an online meeting mandatory. You can go too far when forcing a video call on people, as communicating with others in ways that work for them is crucial in maintaining rapport.
It is possible and safe to meet others in person. Just follow the guidelines. Even at six feet apart, in-person meetings allow the full range of communication, minus the facial expressions behind the masks. When people are physically present with others, there’s a greater chance for feelings of rapport to spread among them.
Schedule Virtual Get-Togethers
Live online events can help with a key aspect of maintaining rapport, sharing. However, this sharing is less about work and more about life.
Regularly, set aside half an hour at shift’s end as designated virtual social time. Plan to share things about your life. You might screen share some photos or a video showing your hobby or other interests. Perhaps some other people have similar interests, which could become the basis of continued conversations. Explore new ideas or just chat about life, much like you’d do when meeting socially in person.
If your events work out well, you might up the ante. Have a virtual home improvement show-and-tell. Have a comedy hour. Host a happy hour, or organize a wine, beer, tea, or coffee tasting where people take turns introducing others to their favorite beverages. As people get comfortable with each other through these events, they trust more and open up more so the group has a better rapport.
Since few of us ever get schooled in techniques to establish and maintain rapport, here are some tips.
Check Your Assumptions at the Door
You can get much further in building rapport if you set out with the right intentions. Make sure you’re genuinely interested in sharing with others. Then, check in on your assumptions about the person. Do you assume they have good intentions? If not, you’re already putting up a roadblock to rapport. Try to assume the best until proven otherwise.
People will trust more when they understand your thoughts and when you make your feelings known.
Be open about why you feel the way you do about topics under discussion. When a person shares snippets of personal experience with you during a conversation, think of how their experience relates to your own. If you see similarities, reciprocate by recounting your own experience or relating their experience to your own.
Be the Best Example
Other people will trust you more when you are predictable and when you act with integrity and honesty. Rapport loves certainty. When you act and react predictably, people feel they can trust you.
When people see you as having integrity, they know it is safe to share information with you. That supports trust. Likewise, when you tell people the reasons for decisions and why you feel the way you do, you show you believe in the importance of truth and openness. Rapport can develop and build from there.