Why building rapport is important in every relationship

For most of our early lives, we’re in school, around people our own age, with whom it’s easy to find shared interests—you might be in the same class or play on the same soccer team. 

In adult life, we might encounter more different types of people—at work, in social settings, and even at home. Maybe you eat lunch in the break room with people nearing retirement, or with people who grew up on the opposite end of the country from you. You might be living with roommates you didn’t know before with totally different backgrounds, habits, and schedules. 

Learning how to have harmonious relationships with the people you meet in your adult life, also called creating rapport, is essential. Here’s how to do it.

A man and a woman stand side by side looking at each other, the woman holds a file folder.

Table of contents

What is rapport?Relationships in which rapport can helpHow to build rapport

What is rapport?

Think of rapport as a fancy way of saying that you’re building a relationship. Because the person with whom you’re establishing rapport might be someone you have a working relationship with, like a client or co-worker, it’s not quite a friendship, but it’s also not just an acquaintanceship. 

When it comes to roommates or professional relationships, gaining mutual trust and understanding each others’ point of view can not only help you have an easier time reaching your shared goals, but also breathe some life into the way you feel when doing it.

Relationships in which rapport can help

Most people enjoy connecting with others. Even a shy person will appreciate being shown a little extra attention, even if it’s just a small joke or a wave goodbye when they weren’t expecting one. Again, good rapport with your roommates and colleagues is helpful; it can also bring you joy to gain mutual understanding with people like your doorman, your grocer, or the staff in your office building. 

Cracking jokes with colleagues will help you remember you’re not just at work to make money—you and the other people there are human beings who crave connection. Additionally, you never know when you’ll have to collaborate with the people from the mail room to track down that package your boss needs today, and it will be more pleasant to do so if you already know and trust each other. 

If you have long-term visions of yourself as a leader in your career, building rapport will be one of the most powerful tools in your kit, and the sooner you can begin practicing it, the better you’ll be at it by the time people expect it from you.

Two men shake hands.

How to build rapport

Before connecting with someone else, tap into your own authenticity. Don’t just chit-chat with someone because you need something—demonstrate a genuine interest in getting to know them. Even if your verbal communication skills are on point, faking it will come through in your body language and facial expressions. 

If you’re struggling with this, try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. What would you want to hear from someone you don’t know well? 

A good bet is to keep it light and fun, finding common ground without prying. Capitalize on your own unique sense of humor by making observations about what’s happening around you. Make sure you establish and maintain eye contact. And if you do start talking in earnest, asking about each other's families or interests, make sure you practice active listening: commenting and reacting to what you actually heard them say, not what you expected they’d say or waiting for your turn to talk.

Additionally, if you’re establishing rapport with someone at work, make sure you understand the line between friendly and too friendly. Good topics to avoid at work include religion, politics, money, and sexuality—bringing these topics up can even be considered workplace harassment. Family can also be a touchy subject—assuming that someone has one, or that they are on good terms with the members of their family, can bring up some people’s most painful memories. 

If you’re working on building a good relationship with your roommate, pay attention to their body language and vibe. Some people are interested in delving into shared experiences; others truly just want a roommate to share living expenses with and aren’t up for a lot of chit-chat at home when they’re trying to decompress, so make sure you’re reading the room when it comes to your roommate, as well.

Let’s take a look at some questions that can help establish rapport while also keeping the conversation light.

Rapport-building questions and prompts for roommates

  • “Did anything interesting happen at work today?”

  • “What are you up to this weekend?”

  • Compliment something they used to decorate their room.

  • Add jokes and levity to conversations that can get tricky, like chore schedules or boundaries around guests.

Rapport-building questions and prompts for colleagues

  • “How was your weekend?”

  • “Are you going to the game/show tonight?”

  • “What shows are you watching?”

  • “What neighborhood do you commute from?”

  • Compliment something your co-worker made a choice about that day, like an article of clothing or a new item on their desk.

Establishing rapport will not only help you feel happier throughout your day, it can also prepare you for success down the road, whether that’s in accomplishing small tasks or gaining experience as a future leader. It’s never too early or too late to start connecting with the people you encounter in your everyday life, so go ahead—give it a try.

Bungalow housing is made for roommates. We handpick homes that are move-in ready and perfect for shared living, and with roommate vetting and compatibility matching, we help you find people you actually want to live with.  Find your Bungalow.

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