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The Secret to Building Rapport

by Michael Beck

There’s no question that people do business with people they like, and the key to having someone like you is to build rapport with them. But sometimes, that’s easier said than done. One of the challenges to building rapport is simply understanding what “rapport” really is.

Webster’s Dictionary defines rapport as, relation characterized by harmony, conformity, accord, or affinity. Nice idea, but what does that really mean and how do you create that?

Is it possible to meet a stranger and within a short period of time, create a “relation characterized by harmony, conformity, accord, or affinity?” The answer is “Yes”, but it often requires an intention to build rapport in order to achieve it.

It’s true that sometimes we meet someone and almost immediately feel a “connection” with them. Not only do we feel that connection, but we do so without any effort. We have a natural connection. We are kindred spirits, of a sort. In other words, we naturally have a “relation characterized by harmony, conformity, accord, or affinity.” We have created rapport without even thinking about it.

But more often, we meet a person and feel no connection whatsoever with them. Even when we want to connect and “build rapport”, we are unable to do so.

Why is that? Why are we able to have almost instant rapport with some people and almost no rapport with others?

There are a number of reasons for this, but the greatest contributor to rapport lies in our “social style” and the “social styles” of others.

The secret to building rapport with others depends upon our understanding of social styles. It rests with our ability to know our own primary social style, with our ability to read the social styles of others, and with knowing how to best relate to each social style.

Generally, we tend to best relate to people who share the same primary social style as our own. To become a more masterful communicator and to enhance our success, it is critical to become competent in reading others and then delivering our message in a way that will be best received.

A.C.E.S - the four social styles

There are four social styles, and while I know of at least a dozen labeling systems, I call them A.C.E.S., which stands for Analytical, Commander, Expressive, and Stabilizer. Allow me provide a brief overview of each style.

Analyticals are just that – very analytical. They seek perfection. They’re organized, detail-minded, and somewhat idealistic. Analyticals can become easily depressed, and are often are moody and sarcastic.

Commanders are natural leaders. They seek control. They are high achievers, can be bold and assertive, and are often very competitive. They also can be egocentric, headstrong, and short-tempered.

Expressives are people people. They seek fun. They’re animated, cheerful, and enthusiastic. They also can be loud, overly talkative, and undisciplined.

Stabilizers are relationship builders. They seek peace. You’ll often see them as accommodating, considerate and easy-going. Stabilizers will avoid conflict, sometimes at any cost.

These brief descriptions should act to give you a sense of what each style is about, but by no means is comprehensive. Each style has a full complement of strengths and weaknesses, and no one style is better than another. In addition, most of us have a primary style and a secondary style.

Although we speak of just four styles, the combinations of traits within us are almost infinite and make us all pretty complex. To truly master these principles requires a more comprehensive program than what this article can cover.

The art of reading styles

Once we’re aware of the four styles and their traits, it behooves us to learn to read them in others. Reading social styles in others is an art that requires practice. But the rewards of being able to read others are immeasurable.

Basically, there are two ways to pick up social style clues and build a profile on someone – observing and listening. By knowing what to look for and what to listen for, we often (but not always) are able to determine another’s social style(s).

Although we can’t go into all the necessary detail here in this article, it is helpful to get a sense of how one goes about determining a person’s social styles. Here are the fundamentals:


Clues about a person’s social styles can be picked up by observing his or her clothing, body language and /or surroundings. For example, conservative clothing may suggest a person is an Analytical, flamboyant clothing almost always marks someone as an Expressive, and a “power suit” is often worn by a Commander. As for body language, the introverted styles of Analytical and Stabilizer will usually adopt “closed” postures. That is, they will often cross their arms and/or legs and will be certain to maintain their personal space.

In contrast, the extroverted styles of Commander and Expressive have no problem getting close to someone when talking to them. They may even reach out and touch the other person’s arm to make a point.

When it comes to observing surroundings, clues can be picked up on someone by being mindful of how they keep their office. For example, Analyticals keep things orderly, while Expressives may have toys on their desk.


One of the easiest ways to spot someone’s social style is through their speech. By that, I mean the pace of speech, the inflections of their speech, the volume of their speech, and the words they use.

Analyticals often speak with a measured pace, maintain an even tone and volume, and will use words that they best relate to. You’ll often hear them use phrases such as: "let me have the details", "I need more facts", or "let me think about it." Commanders will speak at a much more rapid pace, louder than an Analytical, and will use expressions like: "what’s the bottom line here?"”, "get to the point" or "how long will this take?

Expressives often speak rapidly, loudly and expressively, and will often laugh and smile. Stabilizers on the other hand, will speak more slowly and softly, and will often start conversations with discussions of leisure time or family. They may use words and phrases like: "help", "team", or "work together."

Clearly this is just an overview on how to read people. Once a person masters the ability to read others, it becomes much, much easier to build rapport quickly, which, in turn, leads to greater success.

You build rapport by matching and mirroring the other person’s social style and thereby putting them at ease. This allows them to receive the information you have with a more open mind.

After all, our goal is to help others as much as possible and in order to do that we must find a way to deliver our message effectively.

© 2007 Exceptional Leadership, Inc.

Michael Beck is President of Exceptional Leadership, Inc., a firm which develops exceptional leaders through leadership enhancement and executive coaching. Michael can be reached at 866-385-8751 or mbeck@XLeaders.com. You can subscribe to his newsletter here: here.

Some Related Articles:

The Seven Second Advantage
Making Conversation at Business Events
Management Styles: A Primer
How to Build Trust and Rapport Quickly
Effectively Leverage Your Business Network
How to Increase Your People Power


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