I recently read an article on negotiation that focussed on fostering relationships by building rapport.

Building rapport involves getting to know someone, to build trust and create something of value.  I agree this is critical to successful negotiation. But here is where I had a problem with the article.  The author mentioned the importance of setting an atmosphere of trust, then referred to engaging in “small talk” and “schmoozing” as a way of doing so.  I thought this was an unfortunate choice of words to describe rapport building.  Although the term “small talk” is commonly used, it suggests conversation on unimportant topics. Why engage someone to discuss things that aren’t important? “Schmoozing” has an even more negative connotation, and is often associated with manipulation. Yuck, I thought. Does anyone really like to be schmoozed? We know when it is happening and more often than not, it has the opposite effect to building rapport.

What is far more enjoyable and effective is actually getting to know someone, but more importantly, to want to get to know them. If you don’t really care, don’t ask. People can tell when you don’t care. Having genuine curiosity about someone and wanting to learn about them as a person is different than having “small talk” or “schmoozing”.

Building rapport is about finding areas of understanding and appreciation from a place of authenticity and curiosity about someone else. That is how relationships with real, long term value are created.