Building Rapport on the Phone

911: President George W. Bush Telephone Call t...

George W doing his influencing on the phone

Do you have important discussions on the phone and find some of them difficult?

How good would it be if you could always have two-way communications, where both of you really communicated and understood each other?

If I’m coaching on the phone, I find I have to listen much harder and ask more probing questions. I have to listen to the pauses and hear the sighs and changes in intonation and ask some gentle probing questions about what what might be behind what they are communicating.

But another way of building rapport is to consider how you are using your voice!

Here’s a quick reminder of what rapport is:

Rapport is a term used to describe the relationship of two or more people who are on the same wavelength because they feel similar or relate well to each other (source: Dorothy Stewart).

The word is thought to be derived from an old French verb ‘rapporter’ which means literally to carry something back. So, what messages one person intends to send out are seen to be ‘carried back’ by the other. For example two people may be in rapport when they sense that they share similar values, beliefs, knowledge, or behaviours in certain situations.

When working face-to-face, there are a number of techniques that are beneficial in building rapport such as:

  • Matching your body language (i.e. posture, gesture etc.)
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Matching breathing rhythm

But how can we do this on the phone to gain instantaneous rapport? Here are the variables available to us:

  • Voice tone (pitch – high or low)
  • Tempo (speed – slow or fast)
  • Timbre (quality – clean or rich)
  • Volume (loudness – loud or soft)

All we have to do is notice where the other person has set their dials on each of these elements and reflect back in a similar way to them.

We don’t have to match their sound exactly. This is especially true if you are speaking to someone of the opposite sex. As a woman, if you matched a man’s low tone exactly it would obviously sound strange. You wouldn’t build rapport. In fact you would probably break it!

Your voice has to remain authentic – in other words, within your normal range. Otherwise it might seem that you’re being manipulative.

The result is you sound more like the other person and so unconsciously they will recognise you are like them. They will then tend to like you and be more inclined to listen to what you have to say.

Most of us will naturally do this ‘rapporting’ when we’re at our best. The challenge is when we’re not at our best – when we’re tired or stressed. Then it might take a little more effort. But it’ll be worth it!



This entry was posted in Business Development and Selling, Coaching and Training, Leadership and Management, Networking and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Building Rapport on the Phone

  1. Pingback: Testing, Testing: One, Two, Freeze! | Bright Mind

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