Building Rapport

Whenever we’re eyeball to eyeball with someone, nose-to-nose, or knee cap-to-knee cap, we’re negotiating. Sometimes that negotiation happens with us both ‘on the same side’ and moving toward a common goal. More familiarly, the negotiations happen when we are at adversarial positions. Such negotiations require the development of mutual rapport.

When we’re talking about electoral reform at a community presentation, while staffing a table at a town hall, or having a one-on-one conversation at the doorway of a homeowner, we want to persuade people to view proportional representation favourably. The most effective persuasion occurs when we’re listening to the people whose opinions we want to change. When we listen reflectively and acknowledge their concerns, we are building rapport.

The reflective listening is important because if we only listen to their words and then return to our script, we’ve lost a chance to connect and build rapport. But if we listen and repeat back what we’ve heard (reflective listening) and then ask ‘is there more?’ We have strengthened connections. We have strengthened rapport.

There are times when we are sitting ‘across the table’ instead of on the ‘same side of the table,’ and the building of rapport has yet to begin. In such situations, a dialogue rolling can be difficult. We all know that persuasion is a goal, and that breeds resistance. The resistance can take the form of being reserved or withdrawing.

When we are in a position of ‘drawing people out’ to discover their thoughts, feelings, and inclinations, the introduction of a common bond can be useful. When that common bond carries an emotional weight to it, then it can be quite powerful. As we are speaking at a presentation, staffing a table, or going door-to-door in our proportional representation campaign, an effective and powerful ‘hook’ to draw out the concerns of those not as familiar with proportional representation is to talk about ‘unfairness.’

‘Unfairness’ is an emotional topic that most everyone can identify with. It hits to the core of many people. It can catalyze those who are ambivalent to talk about what actual concerns they actually have with our current electoral system. The introduction of the topic of ‘unfairness’ in the context of our current electoral system can move an otherwise stagnant conversation and simultaneously lay the foundations of building rapport.

Use the ‘hook’ of talking about unfairness