Rapport-based Communication – Defining rapport

In the approach of “rapport-based communication”, the concept of rapport is defined through the work of Robert Rosenthal, Linda Tickle-Degnan and Daniel Goleman.

Rapport exists only between people; we recognise it whenever a connection feels pleasant, engaged and smooth (Goleman, 2006).

In their 1990 paper, “The Nature of Rapport and Its Non-verbal Correlates”, Rosenthal and Tickle-Degnan explain that “individuals experience rapport as the result of a combination of qualities that emerge from each individual in interaction”. They suggest that there are three such qualities that are central to the tangible, mutual experience of rapport, qualities that Daniel Goleman describes as necessary ‘ingredients’ in his book Social Intelligence (2006). These three qualities are:

Mutual attentiveness

When people are experiencing rapport, the social attention of each person is directed toward the other person/people – they are ‘other-involved’. This is experienced by the other person as intense mutual interest in what the other is saying or doing. (Rosenthal, Tickle-Degnan 1990).

Mutual positivity

Interactants experiencing rapport with one another feel mutual friendliness and caring (Rosenthal, Tickle-Degnan 1990). Rapport feels good, a sense of friendliness where each person experiences each other’s warmth (Goleman 2006).

Co-ordination

A high degree of behavioural co-ordination or non-verbal synchrony described by Goleman (2006) as “a spontaneous and immediate responsiveness that has the look of a closely choreographed dance, as though the call and response of the interaction had been purposefully planned – their eyes meet, bodies get close, pulling chairs near”. Parks and Burgess (1924) describe this ingredient when they state that “rapport implies the existence of a mutual responsiveness, such that every member of the group reacts immediately, spontaneously, and sympathetically to the sentiments and attitudes of every other member” (p. 893).

This research underpins the practice of rapport-based communication. The purpose of the approach is to find rapport and the definition of the three ingredients offers practitioners both a clear definition of the experience and also of the qualities to embody in order to find it.

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