How Do We Find Replacement Rapport (Online)?

Replacement Rapport OnlineIn today’s post, Alan is going away from the standard authority post.  Instead, he asks a lot of questions that are related to networking and interacting with other online entrepreneurs. 

I think this is an important read because you CAN’T run an Internet business without building relationships.  So read through Alan’s article and leave your thoughts in the comments section below…

If you’ll permit me I will not be writing a very ‘authoritative’ post here, rather I’d like to explore something with you – the idea of rapport.

Well, not so much rapport, more the lack of it – or at least the question of whether it’s there or not. Online.

Why Does This Matter for Online Business?

Again, I can’t really be too authoritative about this as far as online business goes, except to say that I bet it does matter. What I can tell you is that it certainly does matter in ‘physical world’ business.

I know, for example, that if I want a good long term relationship with a client, then I have to meet him or her – at least once. Sure, it’s possible to have a great relationship without a face-to-face meeting, but I know that if I want the relationship to be everything it can be, if I want to build rapport and therefore trust, we need to meet in person.

What is Rapport and Why is it So Important?

Rapport is when you build a kind of ‘bond’ with someone, it’s a connection, the feeling that you’re on the same wavelength. People who have a good understanding of rapport, who know how to build it (yes, there are ways to build rapport if it’s not there) and to recognise it can really use this to their advantage.

Often in a business sense good rapport might be a green light to propose something whereas a lack of rapport would be an indication that it would be a bad time to propose that same thing, (particularly if it involved your client paying money for something).

How to Recognise Rapport

There are several sub-conscious things that we do when we get along with people (or if we don’t). Believe it or not there are many ‘signals’ which we all give off all of the time, through the cadence of our speech, the tonality of our voice, our body language and even changes in the pigments of our skin!! All of these are outward indicators which someone who understands this idea of rapport can ‘read’ to tell them how a particular relationship or conversation is going.

I say ‘indicators’ because these signs must be taken in context (e.g. someone you’re talking to with their arms folded across their chest may well be feeling defensive but if you’re standing outside in the middle of winter they may just be cold).

How to Build Rapport

Without going into too much detail here, if we can recognise rapport, i.e. what makes us feel comfortable with others, then we can also build rapport by changing our own behaviour to make others feel more comfortable with us. This will usually be along the lines of matching their behaviour, expressions or maybe just by paying attention and actively listening to what they are saying.

‘Tells’ can Give You Away

So all of these signs or ‘Tells’ can give away your true feelings and to some extent, your thoughts.

A Brief Experiment

  1. Smile your biggest smile.
  2. Keep smiling that smile and try and think of something negative.

Difficult? It should have been if you did it properly. That is because our minds are programmed to associate smiling with being happy. You can also try this simple experiment the opposite way round:

  1. Think of something negative.
  2. Smile your biggest smile.

Chances are this way round that the negative thought either disappeared or didn’t feel so bad once you’d been smiling for a few seconds.

Our minds and body language are programmed and re-programmed through years of repetition.

A Quick Poker Analogy

In poker, top players look for such ‘Tells’ in their opponents. In fact, if you were to watch the World Series of Poker when it gets down to the last few tables, you might notice that some players have very peculiar habits, eccentricities and even strange toys and mascots to try and throw their opponents. Some of them even wear kagoules with the hoods up and pulled tight to hide as much of their body and face as possible – so others can’t ‘read’ them.

Yet despite these tells being a huge part of the game, people do play poker online. In fact the online poker industry is HUGE. You can’t see anyones face in online poker. I am told that there are equivalent ‘tells’ in online poker – the rhythm of a game, the time someone takes to play their hands, previous hands won or lost, time spent at each table, how many tables they’re playing at one time, their online name, things they type in the chat box, the amount of chips they have in the game and the amount they enter the game with… One thing is for sure, there are a lot of people making a LOT of money from online poker. Some have given up very well paid careers to do so.

Back to Rapport

So my question is this:

If rapport exists and is an important part of relationship building in business, what is the equivalent online?

There are plenty of tools giving endless possibilities for interaction but which ones are the best for building genuine rapport? Is it just a case of taking the time to send more personalised messages? Is it what is actually said? The number of interactions?

Rapport is not something you buy or trade and the strange thing about it is between some people it can take seconds whilst between others it can take years. So what is the closest thing we have to rapport online and how important is it for online business?

One (Obvious) Thing We Could Do To Build Rapport Online

(and Why it Wasn’t Obvious To Me)

Well, I was going to leave this article open ended and hope for some comments on the matter as I’m really not the expert. However today (=time of writing today, not publication date today) I did get a little guidance from a skype call I had with Annie Andre of This may seem a little obvious to you but let me tell you what happened.

I was due to have this call with Annie and for some reason was expecting audio only. I looked a mess too which I always thought was one of the advantages of online business. Anyway, I hit the call button and when Annie answered she appeared on my screen. I was actually surprised but went ahead and clicked the video button so she could see me too.

Now I’m not exactly a shy person I’m just not used to video skyping people. Even my closest friends, I will usually just speak to on the phone. Why do I need to see their faces? I know what they look like.

So why was that so weird to me? Just because I’m not used to it. Taking a business contact out for a meal or a drink I am completely used to, even if I don’t know them too well. That may seem weird to some people. Video calling with skype is something I’ve done to show relatives my kids, but it just never occurred to me that even if I don’t speak to close friends or family via video calls, for modern online business, this is something I might need to start doing more with new contacts I don’t know too well at all – to get to know them better.

A Kind of Conclusion and Over To You

That’s it. That’s all I’m going to write on the subject for the moment. I could tell you plenty about rapport, how wonderful it is, how to build rapport, howtonetworkeffectively and how to use rapport to overcome conflicts – but for the physical, offline world. As far as how this translates in the online world, that’s where I need your help.

I guess a kind of conclusion I’m reaching is that just because we’re online, that doesn’t mean we can afford to be anonymous. Relationships still count, and rapport (or it’s online equivalent) is an important part of building those relationships. Maybe skype video is the best way to achieve this (thanks Annie) and there is actually one more tool I’ve discovered which might help but I’d love to hear if you have more or other thoughts on the matter, so leave me a comment and I’ll tell you about that one too…

You can find Alan at Life’s Too Good, a blog about helping you gain more out of life and enjoy it to its fullest.  Featured sections include Being Your Own Life Coach, Improve Your Health, Getting More for Your Money, and Free Business Coaching. Alan is also an accomplished writer and you can actually watch him write his latest book, ‘Lessons From The City’ at a new site he just created:

Take Action. Get Results.

31 thoughts on “How Do We Find Replacement Rapport (Online)?”

  1. Alan,

    Rapport? Online?

    Of course there is rapport online. And unfortunately so many do not know good rapport if it bit them you know where. But in their defense, many times rapport in one country or culture is not the same in another.

    I received an email from a fellow blogger not long ago. The subject line was “you need to work harder”. What? Who does this guy think he is? I opened it. He proceeded to warn me that if I don’t work harder at what I am doing, I will loose money and opportunity. This was not a newsletter to his list but directed to only me and I know who he is, I have seen him online.

    My first inclination was to tell him to f-off! You don’t just tell an adult what to do. And it WAS unsolicited advice from this young guy. I politely replied that I was working my hardest and I have an offline life I need to tend to also, I am a mother, wife and friend also.

    Apparently, he is either full of himself or views women in a different light than I am used to.

    He replied kindly.

    I realized he didn’t mean to sound bossy and judgmental or conceited. I do believe he was trying to help me. But his approach was horrid. If I were a client of his, well, I wouldn’t be anymore. He needed to learn better rapport.

    I think you nailed it with the online poker example. You can read whether of not people have good or bad rapport with others in how they comment on a blog or how often. The way they write a post or interact on social sites can kill or make relationships.

    I believe you need to work even harder online to build rapport. Words can be taken out context, especially if someone is trying to be funny or sarcastic, they can come across as rude. While building that rapport maybe one should just be straight forward until you get to know the other person.

    Sure we can’t read a person’s face or gestures in the comment section of a blog but we can “read” if they are angry, happy, conceited, humble, unsure, etc. through the words chosen.


  2. Allie,


    Though I’m not certain that I agree with your last point – just due to the one you made before that (;-) confused? You will be ;-)) i.e. that written words can often be misinterpreted. When you speak to someone face-to-face the rapport part is often the part that tells you the most.

    There is a commonly cited model of communication which says something along the lines of 60% of what we communicate we do via body language, and less than 10% from the actual words we use (the rest being via facial expression) – the proportions may be different but you get the idea. So it’s hardly surprising that people used to these indicators when communicating face-to-face can misinterpret the written word.

    My point with the article was more about relationship building and trust. For me, rapport is something that requires physical presence and involves our senses, but there must be equivalents online, and perhaps the more interactions we have, the more we can tell if the communications we have are genuine, true to character and if that rapport with the other party is being built.

    I feel like I trust you for example as we’ve gotten to know each other quite a bit – there have still been moments where I wasn’t sure if I’d upset you or not and vice versa which would have been obvious in person. Do you remember when you wrote ‘Gosh, I am heading out the door.’ and I thought I’d upset you?

    Another example is sales – personally I find selling much easier when in person than online – not that I’ve tried to sell much online (yet) but I know I’d find it much more difficult.

    Plus my sense of humour can be really cynical and sarcastic so what chance do I have online (except for being really careful what I write) … ?

  3. One of the reasons I prefer skype for my consulting work is the ability to use video chat. its a great way to engage better and use all your skills with people that you normally would never meet face to face.
    Thanks for sharing this insightful post.

    • Thanks James & Thanks for commenting.

      Yep I am pretty impressed with Skype, particularly the video feature. In the corporate world I used to use something called Avistar which is the same sort of thing – i never thought free conferencing software such as Skype could come close.

      That being said I tried my first ever group skype call today and it was a car crash. Lots of drop outs though that could have been my computer rather than skype (more technical research needed)

  4. To assist in this, I use Rapportive for Gmail. It pops up with a short message history, notes about the person, and a link to all of their social profiles whenever someone emails me.

    It’s nice to be able to instantly to instantly go back through past conversations when a business contact reaches out to you out of the blue.

    It does about 2/3 of what I need a CRM to do, and it’s free:

    (I am not affiliated with Rapportive in any way and do not profit from the link above – just a happy user. 🙂

    • Hey Lyndsy,

      I was hoping someone would ask what I meant by my ‘…one more tool I’ve discovered…’ comment at the end of the post but you beat me to it (it’s rapportive).

      I’m not affiliated with them either but I agree with you – it’s a great and (most importantly for me, the efficiency junkie,) convenient tool.

      thanks for bringing this up – on the social media front I also find it a much better way of introducing yourself (as that person has already clearly had some contact with you via email),

      take care & best wishes,

  5. Alan,
    I thought you looked dashing on our video call, all scruffy and weathered like you had been out on safari. That look should be your new Gravatar.

    chatting and video chatting with people online has certainly helped me in more ways than i ever imagined. I come from a world, (my past jobs have all been late nights with spreadsheets and business analytics not people per se) where i didn’t really think about relationships and rapport on a daily basis.

    I am shocked at the benefits of a simple 10 minute chat with someone online. Benefits i would have never imagined. I only wish i had known sooner. A year ago i would have read your post about rapport and scoffed because i had never experienced it. But now after experiencing it i am a firm believer and i want more.
    I have skype calls lined up with 4 people over the next month. It’s scary but it’s an imagined fear that i push away.
    I have more confidence, i have been able to brainstorm with people to help me with my business, my blog and just connect on a personal level. Words cannot explain the joy and the fuel that these connections give me. One just has to do it and experience for themselves.
    If you are an old hand at this than you may think nothing of it but to someone like me, it’s like discovering gold.

    Loved this article, it really did hit home. p.s. i want to give google video another try. it must have been a glitch we experienced.

    • Thanks Annie,

      you’re too kind!! The scruffy look is my default these days – it’s helped at the moment by the uneven tan after 3 weeks skiing showing where I wore my sunglasses & the fact that I found a pair of clippers that morning I never knew I had so decided to shave my head! (i.e. when the tan wears off maybe I’ll just take the crunchybetty approach).

      That call was embarassingly bad. So much so I have literally (2 mins ago) just ordered a macbook air which should at least handle any performance problems my end. I also rang Acer because I want to give back this crappy PC netbook but I might just hang on to it to test PC stuff. Anyways, next call should be better and I’m happy to try Google vid again as long as you don’t make me blush and there are no cats or dogs involved.

      I really can’t believe you of all people would have any nerves when it comes to Skype calls – you started it!!

  6. I’m enjoying this conversation – thanks Alan.

    “There is a commonly cited model of communication which says something along the lines of 60% of what we communicate we do via body language, and less than 10% from the actual words we use (the rest being via facial expression)”

    – and that’s what I tell my kids who text 24/7 instead of talk face-to-face with to people, but don’t get me started…

    When I first came online, I wanted to stay to myself and be a one man band. But I learned that wasn’t nearly as much fun and certainly not as productive for my business.

    I’m all for building rapport although I’m sure glad I’m not on video right now as it’s very early am, I’m in bathrobe and haven’t brushed my teeth. I guess you wouldn’t know I haven’t brushed my teeth on video though.

    P.S. Steve, I see you’re using Tynt Insight – cool!

    • Hi Peggy,

      no probs & thanks for joining the conversation.

      I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you around the ‘blogosphere’ (still not sure if I like that word but I suppose I’d better start getting used to it) so obviously the online networking is happening.

      Weird how VAST it seemed to me at first (more in terms of things to learn I suppose) yet how I’m starting to see the same faces around. Maybe the blogging world is relatively small after all. What do I know? I’m still learning…

      You raise an interesting point re: kids texting. I reckon the next generation has a totally new way of looking at everything. I tried to explain to my son that the same research he took 10 seconds to do for his history homework using Google would have taken me considerably longer and involve a trip to the library and several volumes of some big books called Encyclopedias. “Eh? What do you mean you didn’t have Google?”. It took me a while to create a gravatar but the second I created him an email account the first thing he asked was “How do I put my picture on it?”.

      My son is basically on the hook for keeping me up to date with technology as soon as he starts overtaking me (some of which is already happening) – that and keeping me fit but that’s a different story 😉

      Anyways, I for one hope face-to-face doesn’t disappear completely but the times are definitely changing…

  7. I really like your point on rapports in online marketing. Rapports are a kind of finding the right audience in you niche, I think. And if they exist (I think so), they could be one of the most effective weapons in online marketing. Thanks for this inspiring post!

    • Hi Julie,

      thanks for the comment and your kind words.

      I’m afraid I have to disagree with you a little though, assuming I understood your point correctly. I’m not sure we can use rapport to ‘find’ an audience but rather to build relationships and trust when we are with others (i.e. in their presence, once we have found them).

      Rapport exists in any case (between people meeting in person) all the time – the only question being if we have good or bad rapport.

      What I’m up for discussing is how this changes when that ‘presence’ is online versus offline.

  8. Hey Steve,

    Rapport really is a different story online since you are cannot see or hear someone like you could in a public place or over the phone even. That is why I think video is a great tool to use to build rapport with people. It give them a way to see who you are and hear your voice… It makes things a little more personal.

    Thanks for the tips. Rapport really is important if you want people to return to your blog and/ or listen to what you have to say. You must give them a reason to.

    Take Care,


    • Hi Jeremy,

      you’re welcome 😉

      and you’re right – Rapport really is important – and adding audio and video (and perhaps some of your own personality) to your website helps,

      take care & best wishes,

  9. Hi Alan,

    Awesome article, and it reminds me a lot of the difficulties of online business when English is not your first language. I’m Norwegian and mostly build my rapport by commenting, using twitter, facebook and email, but I’m a little more skeptical of using Skype. That’s mostly because I’m a lot better at writing English than speaking.

    • Hey Jens,

      Thank you so much. It’s an interesting point. Though I would have imagined there are two sides of that coin as you allude to – if English is not your first language and therefore you don’t have as instinctive an immediate response as a native speaker would – it could be an advantage being online vs offline as you have more time to consider & craft your communications.

      I’ve actually seen this first hand with someone very senior I worked for who was a lot less patient with one of his staff and clearly because he didn’t give answers as immediately as his peers when put on the spot. The boss clearly didn’t make any allowance for the fact that English wasn’t the guy’s first language (plus he was very honest whereas the others were all ‘yes-men/women’ but that’s another point).

      As this guy searched for the best way to express himself the boss just got frustrated with him. I’m sure if their relationship was 100% online they would not have had problems.

      Take your point about Skype though…

      Thanks for the comment, take care & best wishes,

  10. A year ago i would have read your post about rapport and scoffed because i had never experienced it. But now after experiencing it i am a firm believer and i want more.
    I have skype calls lined up with 4 people over the next month. It’s scary but it’s an imagined fear that i push away.

    • Alan,

      Strange comment from Lexi. She copied part of my comment word for word

      Not sure what the point of that was? Or am i missing something? Or was my comment just sooooo AMAAAAZING??

      Here’s the part she copied.
      “A year ago i would have read your post about rapport and scoffed because i had never experienced it. But now after experiencing it i am a firm believer and i want more.
      I have skype calls lined up with 4 people over the next month. It’s scary but it’s an imagined fear that i push away.”

  11. Hi Alan,

    I’ve spent 10 years in customer service and rapport is one of the most abused topic in the industry. Needless to say, it is very important to try and build rapport with customers or in this case with your readers. Building rapport over the phone is tough what more online when you cannot hear nor see the person you’re talking to. So I think your article is great and your tips are very practical. In the call center industry we always say smile and your callers will hear it. So yeah, I’m smiling while I’m writing this and I hope it’s working. 🙂

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