Influencing People on the Phone Through Rapport

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

We put our point of view and explain our reasons and they counter with something else. It can feel like you’re transmitting on FM, but they’re receiving on AM!

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

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

I think the key is to build rapport. 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.)
  • Maintainingeye 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 inauthentic or even manipulative.

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

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

The first step though is to be interested in wanting to build a relationship with the other person…..


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