Building patient rapport – effective communication

Building patient rapport

The care profession relies on staff that can communicate effectively; as a team and more importantly one to one with their patients.  In our current series of articles we discuss techniques that can help care workers further develop their communication skills through a series of short posts.  Today our focus is on building patient rapport.

Rapport is defined as “a sympathetic relationship or understanding” and derives from the French verb “rapporter”, translated as “to return or bring back”.  It is about creating a two-way connection and is highly effective in the care sector.

Building rapport allows you to engage comfortably with someone regardless of fundamental differences in your personality and develops a genuine sense of trust and respect in the relationship.  It is extremely beneficial when working in stressful conditions but can also be useful in your everyday life.

If you wish to build a relationship with someone or need to work alongside someone you wouldn’t normally engage socially, you need to take time to get to know the person instead of expecting them to adapt to you and your style.  Rapport isn’t something you acquire instantly – it is something you must invest time in and develop intuitively.

How do I begin building patient rapport?

  1. Think about a relationship with someone you have rapport.
    • What signals do you send out to that person when you communicate with them?
    • How do you gauge whether you are on the same wavelength as them?
    • How do you create and maintain rapport in any conversations you have with them?
  2. Look at relationships with someone you don’t have rapport with but would like to.
    • Think about the preconceived perceptions you may have about them?
    • Do you tend to avoid any small talk or conversations regarding daily events with them?
    • What are the obstacles in creating and maintaining rapport with that person?
  3. Re-assess both relationships.
    • What is fundamentally different in the way you approach both people – the one you have good rapport with and the one you don’t engage?
    • What can be done differently in your behaviour with the second person to help build a stronger relationship?

The general assumption is that the first person (who you like) is simply easier to get on with and that the second person (who you have difficulty building a relationship with) is just difficult.  However, by being more flexible in your behaviour, and in how you approach that person, you may find you can build rapport (and a relationship) through some simple actions.

Building rapport is about taking the time to get to know people and understand what is important to them, rather than expecting the person to adapt to your style.

Basic techniques for building patient rapport

Rapport as the foundation of any relationship means that when difficult issues arise, you can more easily address them, work with the other person to find solutions, and move on.

Sometimes you may have limited information about the other party.  If so take some time out to research their background in an effort to understand what makes them tick.  Perhaps you have a friend or colleague in common, perhaps their family members may have some basic information.  You can even try to identify them with the help of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Tips for building patient rapport

Fortunately, there are some tips for sharpening your rapport with a third party.  These apply to patients, colleagues and even family members.

  • Take a genuine interest in what is important to other people.  Start to understand them by listening to any concerns or issues they hold important.  Don’t expect them to come to you first.  Patients are often guarded at the beggining of any relationship and you need to show that you are there for them – regardless of your mood / feelings.
  • Listen to how they phrase things.  Pick up on key words, the way they talk and the favourite phrases they use in conversations.  Build these aspects subtly into your own conversations with them.
  • Temper your responses to their questions in a manner that suits their tone.  Notice how much information they handle in discussions and feed back in the same portion size.  Do they go into detail about things they talk about or do they just look at the bigger picture?  It is important to respond in a way that they relate to.
  • Breath in unison with the other person.  Don’t make this obvious and over time it will become natural.  You can discreetly watch their neck and chest to see when they exhale and inhale and match your own breathing to that person.
  • Adopt a similar stance to them in terms of body language, gestures, voice tone, and speed of talking.  Be careful not to duplicate any aggressive mannerisms unless you are sympathising with an issue they have.  Remain calm at all times, even if the conversation becomes heated.
  • Try and understand the person’s underlying aim in any conversation – as opposed to the exact things done or said.  People may not always get things right, but work on the assumption that they mean well.
  • Show respect.  Respect their time, energy, friends, money and favourite hobbies.  These items are an important resource for you and something you can come back to when situations become tense.

Effective communication courses to help when building patient rapport

Effective communication is important in the care sector.  At Online Care Courses we offer a number of courses that cover patient care.

Develop your ability to listen effectively with our communication and record keeping course. Learn how to show respect and further understand your responsibilities as a care worker. All of our courses are available online for a small monthly subscription fee and we offer bulk discounts for care providers with multiple learners.   If you are a care worker, you’ve come to the right place – the next step is just knowing where to look to find the online support you need.

Care Certificate training

Elderly care course

Working with those with disabilities


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *