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Building rapport

February 11, 2022 by Kelly Kendall-Jones

Building rapport

I recently delivered a workshop to students about to become New to Curtin mentors. This program connects first years with more experienced students in a similar area of study. Mentors are there to support new students as they settle into first semester and embrace all that uni life has to offer.

Becoming a New to Curtin mentor is a fantastic way to give back to your fellow students and the Curtin community, as well as being a great opportunity to build your leadership, communication and collaboration skills. These ‘soft skills’ are highly valued by employers across all industries, so it’s a win-win!

If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, it’s not too late to get involved.

Back to the workshop – the aim was to provide strategies to mentors on how to build rapport with their mentees. It’s not just mentors who can benefit from developing this skill. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’re studying or which industry you aspire to move into – knowing how to build rapport can bring you countless opportunities. After all, when you have a rapport with someone, they will usually want to help you succeed.

So, what is rapport and how can you become skilled in developing it? Rapport is similar to trust, and the two can be built simultaneously. Rapport focuses more on establishing a bond or connection with someone, whereas trust is more about being reliable and keeping your promises. Rapport isn’t just about building relationships; when you have rapport with someone, you’re better placed to share ideas, influence others, and create opportunities together.

Here’s a few tips on where to start:

Be a good listener
When you’re meeting someone for the first time, give them your undivided attention. This means being fully present, not looking at your phone, or over the person’s shoulder, but entirely focused on them and what they have to say. If a person feels listened to, they will also feel valued.

Listen with curiosity and without judgement
We all carry within us a level of unconscious bias triggered by our brain automatically making quick assessments and judgements about people we meet. Being aware of your unconscious bias may help you avoid making erroneous assumptions about others and allow you to approach any exchange as a welcome opportunity to connect with a new person. You may have more in common that you first thought.

Be respectful of others’ experiences
When someone is sharing their story with you, avoid comparing a similar experience to theirs as this can be perceived as one-upmanship. If they share with you how much they’re struggling with their internship, don’t say you know exactly how they feel because you had a terrible internship experience. Every experience is different and unique to the individual. While you can show empathy and understanding by sharing a similar experience, don’t make it about you.

Leave a positive, lasting impression
Smile, be humble and genuine, and remember people’s names! It’s hard to establish rapport with someone who wants to talk only about themselves, so try to balance the conversation. Aim to share as much as the other person does. You’ll both feel more comfortable as a result.

As American author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said,

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

Don’t forget, if you’re keen to become a New to Curtin Mentor, applications are still open!

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