Building rapport


August 14th, 2009

iStock_rock crowdI wonder what comes to mind, about facilitation,  when you look at this photo? I’d be interested in your interpretation.

I see rapport building – an essential, but elusive part of facilitating that takes some effort to build and can be lost in a moment. I understand rapport to be developing a human connection with the others. In this concert shot, it’s obvious that the performer can’t build rapport with each and every individual. Yet somehow, the best performers do. Think of a concert you were at where it felt like you were at a private performance although there were hundreds, if not thousands of other people there. That’s rapport.

How do they do it? And what can we, as facilitators, learn about rapport from performers? I think it has something to do with being human and vulnerable, without being cringe-worthy. No-one wants to see someone on the stage – or a facilitator – that is struggling with their own capacity to perform. We want to see others succeed. So it’s that humanness combined with capability and connection that builds rapport. Most often, I’ve seen rapport building by telling personal stories or anecdotes. They don’t have to be elaborate stories – just small stories that give us some insight to the person. Comedians know this approach and is the basis of many of their routines.

Here’s one I sometimes tell: “I grew up at a holiday camp. I was the snotty nosed kid running around amongst the teenagers and adults who were doing important camping business. It was only much later that I realised I was probably learning facilitation, or at least group processes, by osmosis. They used to play games and sports and sit around in groups talking a lot.  And it took me a few diversions before I ended up facilitating – like studying agriculture (where I learnt a lot about human dynamics). Oh, yeah. That had nothing to do with agriculture. It was more about living on campus out in the middle of nowhere with 100 others. But I’m glad I re-discovered facilitating (even though I didn’t know that I’d lost it cos I didn’t actually know that I knew it…) Confused yet? Anyway, I love facilitating.”

Hopefully, participants might be able to relate to something I’ve said. More so than the traditional intro. What about you? How do you build rapport with groups?

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