Building rapport

Building rapport is the process of beginning a connection with someone by creating mutual trust, understanding and respect.  

If you are a Companionship Calls Volunteer having a pen and paper handy to make some notes on what is discussed can help with your future conversations. 

Top tips for building rapport

1. Make a good introduction

Smile and maintain eye contact:

When meeting someone new, smile genuinely and make eye contact. This shows openness and friendliness.  

If you are speaking on the phone:

It can be more challenging to build rapport over the phone than in person. When we envisage ourselves talking to a person face to face our words and tone can often change so always start your calls with a smile on your face. 

Use their name:

Address the person by their name - it’s a simple but powerful way to make them feel acknowledged, you can also ask them if they have a preferred name to their given one.

2. Actively listen

Be present:

Give your full attention to the conversation. Avoid distractions and actively engage in what the other person is saying. 

Ask follow-up questions:

Show interest by asking questions related to their statements. This demonstrates that you value their perspective. 

See our active listening guide for more detail on active listening.

3. Ask engaging questions

Take the time to get to know the person. Ask about their friends and family, hobbies, and other important aspects of their life. This communicates your desire to understand them as a person. 

Open-ended questions:

Instead of yes/no questions, ask open-ended ones. For example: 

“Tell me about your favourite hobby.” 

“If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?” 

“What have you been grateful for recently?” 

Listen intently to their responses: This helps you understand their interests and experiences.

4. Be Aware of Your Body Language (even on the phone)

Mirror their posture and gestures:

If you are able to subtly mimic their body language—it creates a sense of familiarity. 

Maintain an open stance:

Avoid crossing your arms or appearing defensive and try to ensure you are relaxed.

5. Find things you have in common

Shared interests:

Discover common hobbies or experiences. These shared connections strengthen rapport. 

Acknowledge differences:

Respect differences too; they add depth to the conversation.

6. Lead with empathy and respect


Try to understand their feelings and perspectives. Show compassion. Showing empathy can be just a simple statement such as “I appreciate that it is challenging” or “That must be difficult for you”. 

Respect boundaries:

Be mindful of personal space and sensitive topics. 

Validate what they share:

When you validate what someone says, you’re telling them that you hear and understand their concerns, but you’re not telling them what you think they should do about it. So, saying “I understand this is important to you” validates what they have shared. By doing this, you’re showing them that you respect how they feel. 

See our guide on empathy for more details. 

Remember, building rapport takes time and practice. Be genuine, patient, and adaptable. By following these steps, you can create meaningful connections with others.