Created with Sketch.

Instant Charisma – The psychology of rapport revealed

Business is built on relationships. It doesn’t matter how weird your industry is or how of “independent” you think you are.

Entrepreneurs get ahead by connecting with the right people. It’s only then that serendipitous magic can happen.

This quick-fire post breaks down the foundational principal behind “rapport” – that magical state where people seem to just *get* (and like) one another. Figure this one tactic out and your network (and whole business) will rocket.  Rapport is defined as “A close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well”.

It’s an essential ingredient in any form of direct selling, staff management (or *gasp* leadership) and business negotiation. It’s also the currency of business networking – rapport is what causes entrepreneurs who have what you need (connections, databases, investment capital) to gravitate to your ideology.

Rapport is the foundation of charisma. 

The psychology behind rapport is simple. We’re attracted to people that we relate to. We sort for “sameness”.

Romantic relationships are the same, although they cycle through phases of appreciating “differences” as well sameness. However, it’s almost always the attractive power of sameness that creates initial connection.

When humans interact socially, the tend to share descriptions (read: tales) of what they consider to be powerfully emotive experiences. For example…

“The funniest thing happened at work today….” 

“You’ll never guess what I saw on the way here tonight…” 

“This place reminds me of….”

Are all conversational starters that segue into vivid descriptions of rich experience. As the listener you can create instant and massive rapport by uttering a single starter of your own, just as soon as the story is finished.

It sounds like this:

“… I can relate…” 

I can relate. My experience matches yours, figuratively or literally. I understand you because I’ve felt the same way.

This is the conversational subtext of relational rapport – the act of relating to someone. It’s the essence of deep, lasting connection.

When someone shares a story with you, their unconscious mind is assessing you for that sameness factor. Do you have it… or don’t you? Essentially, their intuition is gauging whether or not you’re trustworthy and worth developing a deeper connection with.

Charismatic, warm and trustworthy people tend to naturally be those who have a vast wealth of life experience that enables them to relate to almost anyone.

Yet so many conversations (especially amongst the so called business elite) start out based on differences.

“We’re working in this industry” – “Oh really? We choose NOT to go near it!”

“I think XYZ is important” – “Here’s why I disagree….”

…and so on.

Conversations like this can feel energizing – taking a stance and arguing a point can be fun. It’s seductive to feel smart and opinionated.

However, it pays to remember the millennia of conditioning that has lead us to intuitively look for and befriend people who are just like we are. We want to meet “our people” in the world. When we meet them, we want to hold on to them… help them out… and cherish them.

You can measure your charisma and thus your business networking success by how well you relate to others.

My question is, where else could good “relating skills” serve you as an entrepreneur? What do you think?


+ Add Comment
      1. You are so marvelous. I love you (in a spiritual way). I wish I had met you when you were in Montreal. I was too shy and afraid… Aaaarg!

        I learn so much from your post. Thanks for doing what you do.

  1. Relational skills are important in being able to “read” your guests and customers. If they feel like you truly care, understand their needs, wants and desires and actually listen to them they’re going to come back just for the way that they feel when they interact with you and you business.

    The challenge here is in also making sure that any employees also understand the importance of relational skills so that the experience is constant regardless of who interacts with the guest/customer.

    Success in most things we do is based on relationships of one type or another!

  2. Awesome good post, Peter.

    And then there is the false rapport, sometimes associated with car salesmanship, that feels icky. The assumption of rapport. I think assuming rapport without actually feeling it is a dishonesty that is felt by most, no matter how much a person wants someone to understand.


  3. This post has come behind a really successful week at a conference, and now I can see why it went so well. I made some great contacts, a great speech and gained lots of new insight into my career options. I realised after trying to leave that industry behind, that these *are* my people. We have lots in common, yet so much we can learn from each other; and people I had just met were generous enough to share their experiences with me. The best thing is that it all happened so organically.

  4. Good relating skills would serve me well at the point of discussing what clients want to see in their new (and awesome!) website… when what they want is counterproductive to the results they’d like to achieve.


    “James, this design you’ve created is nice, but that sickly yellow I found on this example site really turns my crank. Let’s neglect your 30+ years of collective experience, skills and knowledge and change all the effectiveness of the design into what I feel is best. I KNOW this is perfect.”

    Sorry, I can’t relate.

  5. Good relating skills happen during initial contacts. I try not to talk about my business as long as possible, I try to find common ground – something we can both relate to. Then when we’ve got a rapport, it feels natural to talk about it. Otherwise, why talk about your business to someone you have no connection to. It’s a waste of your energy.

    The “norm” is to talk about your business, which leaves everyone feeling weirded out and being sold to. No one likes it. Folks might say, “I’ve got a friend who could use you …” But, it’s just silliness for the most part. They need to relate to you first.


    1. The exception would be when someone has an URGENT problem they need help with – in that situation, they’ll WANT to talk business right away and they’ll be looking out (unconsciously) for good rapport from the get go.

  6. Mutual Trust and Respect are the two most important buying decision factors when deciding what to buy and from who to buy it. That is quite different from practicing ‘relationship skills.’

    Commonality is the most common way for people to attempt to ‘build rapport.’ While it may result in pleasant conversations, it is widely regarded as an attempt to do a subtle soft-sell. The insincerity of it diminishes the probability of a relationship of mutual trust and respect.

    1. Hey Jacques,

      I can’t relate 😉

      My experience indicates that entering into conversations (sales or otherwise) with the intention of finding/creating mutual relatable experience… always results in powerful rapport.

      In the same way, the exact opposite is routinely practice by people trying hard to break rapport — moody teenagers do it with their parents a lot. Consciously not *bothering* to relate to anything someone is saying (as you’re kinda implying)… can be a disaster.

  7. Peter – I did not “kinda imply’ ‘not *bothering* to relate to anything someone is saying.” is appropriate. I’m surprised that you translated what I did state that way.

    I can understand if you believe that commonality is better than mutual trust and respect – if you have experience doing both, tracked, and compared the results.

    Our statistics are clear that one way feels good and the other way produces much better results.

    1. Hey Jacques, my misunderstanding – sorry. I’m cautious about placing too much importance on “statistics” around this kind of thing though – it’s impossible to eliminate the “unique human” experiential variable… so almost every study of this kind of thing can’t really produce an empirical result.

      But if it’s working, it works. 🙂

  8. Hi Peter,

    I am glad i came across your site. And i am learning quite a lot.

    Great stuff. As an aspiring entrepreneur i have found this post as well as your site to be of great value.

    It has definitely become one of my favorite sites to get insights & inspiration.

    Best regards

Leave a Comment

Outsource your battle for Focus and Productivity

Commit Action’s Executive Aide service helps business owners become the highest leverage version of themselves possible.

Visit Peter’s other business