Building Rapport by Self-Disclosure Storytelling

Building Rapport — rapport is a harmonious relationship with mutual understanding which is tremendously rewarding itself. Good storytellers create rapport. There are other factors which affect building rapport, but sharing a heartfelt story can connect strangers in a matter of seconds. Mastering self-disclosure storytelling makes you an effective rapport builder.

Building Rapport by Self-Disclosure Storytelling

Cat on top of dog

Cat on top of dog (

Table of Contents

  1. Rapport?
  2. Why Rapport Matters?
  3. Self-Disclosure
  1. Ask To Self-Disclosure
  2. Other Rapport Structure Elements to be Considered


It’s the sense of connection that you get when you meet someone you like and trust, and whose point of view you understand. When you hit it off with someone, you know there is rapport. It is an essential element for building relationships where trust is needed.

“People won’t listen to you until they know who you are and what you want.” Telling a story that reveals something about your character and experience in an appropriate manner is the key.

One thing we have to keep in mind is that rapport is not something you can create by yourself. You can, however, learn how to stimulate it by following storytelling techniques of self-disclosure.

Why Rapport Matters?

Why do you want to build rapport with someone? You might be looking for a new career, you want to craft your skill for your interview or you might have someone who you want to get close to so you want to break the barrier? Ultimately, whether it’s for professional or personal lives, we want to feel the sense of connection and who we are dealing with is always a human being. That’s where the storytelling comes into the picture.

Knowing how to build rapport can bring you countless opportunities and its skill can be honed by practicing storytelling, especially self-disclosure. It’s a win-win cycle when you have a rapport with someone, you want to help him and he wants to help you out as well. It is similar to trust which can be earned by consistency and keeping promises, but the rapport focuses more on creating a bond.


tabby cat showing his stomach

Tabby cat showing his stomach (

It’s not all about speaking about yourself, but to make a sense of connection between you and the other party. Without a sense of connection, the relationship can’t go any further. How can we feel a sense of connection?

By revealing yourself.

What you give is what you get, they say. In order to start any relationship, you have to reveal yourself to a certain amount to communicate with others. Think about when you feel close to someone? It should be when that someone discloses himself a bit to you. It feels like you share the little secrets together, or you feel that he trusted you enough to tell you something which he usually doesn’t.

Self-disclosure is a two-step process. First, a person has to make a self-disclosure that is neither too general nor too intimate. Second, the self-disclosure must be received with empathy, caring, and respect. A negative response made to a genuine self-disclosure can instantly terminate a relationship.

Self-disclosure can be divided into three levels and each has its negative affect and positive one. The point is how much and when to use each level of self-disclosure. A great storyteller knows how to change their storytelling according to the audience.

Light Disclosure

This level of self-disclosure can be very useful when you meet a new person. It’s an icebreaker. Use ‘safe topics’ for the initial small talk. We always want to start with this level, you or the other party would not be offended in any way and look for the chance to go to the next level. Talk about established shared experiences, the weather, how you traveled to where you are. Avoid talking too much about yourself and avoid asking direct questions about the other person.

Smal l talk can be a connection story which is a real anecdote from our lives that we tell during our introduction that would let the listener infer something about our character.

Note that disclosures that are too general reduce the sense of openness, thus reducing the feeling of closeness. Put the other person at ease, this

Medium Disclosure

One step further from the light disclosure, it involves your beliefs, opinions, and ideas about pretty much everything. Since you sharing your opinions, there would be people who couldn’t accept your ideas, hence no rapport would be built. It’s surely riskier than talking about the weather, but if you don’t disclose yourself on this level, there would never be shared the sense of connection.

Note that you don’t have to build rapport with everybody you meet. You can always share the small talk and it doesn’t have to go any further as you choose.

Heavy Disclosure

Disclosures that are too intimate often highlight character and personality flaws, which is only good for a movie script unless you already have a strong bong and trust with each other. People who make intimate disclosures too early in relationships can terminate a relationship as they are often perceived as a trait of insecurity which is dislikable.

Mutual self-disclosures create trust. Too much revelation might shun the other party away, too little expose would make them think you are not willing to build rapport with them. You always want to make sure who you want to build rapport with and how much you want to reveal yourself to that person at what timing.

Ask To Self-Disclosure

As we have seen, rapport is something built between people only when each of them is willing to give some self-disclosure and build rapport. The rapport can’t be built when one or more participants are not sure about what they want to give and get from the relationship.

People who make personal disclosures become vulnerable to the person to whom the disclosures are made. Mutual self-disclosures also create a safety zone because each person has exposed their vulnerabilities and tend to protect the disclosures to avoid mutual embarrassment resulting from a breach of trust.

Think about it this way. What kind of person who you want to build rapport with? List up the criteria and that is someone you should be yourself first. It is a skill you can learn by only practicing. Along the way, you’ll learn who you really want to build rapport with other than your professional life.

Other Rapport Structure Elements to be Considered

Shared Experience

Two cats looking out the window together

Two cats looking out the window together (Pinterest)

Listen attentively to what the other person is saying and look for shared experiences or circumstances. This will give you more to talk about in the small talk, the initial phase of the rapport building.

Stories create a trust, evoke deep emotion and create a timeless expanse of a shared reality. Finding common ground is the first step.


Nobody would be unhappy about having people say something nice about them. However, praise needs to be seen as genuine and this can be difficult if you feel jealous or angry. And it’s ok you don’t want to build rapport with somebody you feel jealous or angry about unless it’s necessary.

Violate the Social Norm

Violating the social norm can make you and the other person feel closer to each other, however, suse humor carefully aiming not to cause any offense and know the boundaries of appropriate language for different situations. But if you are not a storyteller master, it’s always good to play it safe with… Check your story for anything that may make someone uncomfortable. In other words, avoid stories that accidentally make fun of a culture or belief.


Being polite means being aware of and respecting the feelings of other people. We may not always notice politeness, but we usually notice rudeness or inconsiderate behavior which is a sign of lacking basic education or manner. It’s best to show your politeness through your attitude and behavior.

The Shorter The Better with Sensory Details

Make the story short and to the point. Even an extremely good story that goes on for too long loses steam. If you want to be more effective, focus on perceptual details such as colors, sounds, tastes, smells, and movements could make a story more impressive.

Be Confident to Share Your Mistakes

Cat fail

Cat fails (boredpanda)

In other words, be authentic. Honest with yourself so with others. Think about it this way, when do you feel the sense of connection or the empathy the most? It must not be someone’s successful story which focuses only on the brilliant positive side. It has to be their failures, their struggles, their flaws which make you feel closer to them which you can relate to.

This may be the most difficult part because you might think revealing your mistakes in the past might hurt the relationships which already exist. However, that’s the part what resonates with them, so they can relate themselves to you. There, the connection is built.

Sometimes it’s the experience of the hardest time, the fiasco you’ve made attract the people’s attention the most like we can hear bad news every day on the internet. But as a good storyteller, we want to close a story with the hopeful future or some insights giving a meaning of the event.

Match Your Tempo

Match the other person’s speech patterns, such as tone, tempo, and volume. For instance, if he speaks softly and slowly, then lower the volume and tempo of your voice. This can make you and the other person in sync, both would feel comfortable which makes communication easier.

Rapport is the foundation for any good business or personal relationships, but we may say it IS the goal. We all need somewhere where we are not judged, but to be welcomed and appreciated the way you are.

How can you make yourself remembered for the person who you are? Merely stating a fact wouldn’t do the job. We remember stories much better than the content explanation and that’s how our brains are wired, crave for a story. So be a good storyteller helps you to achieve a goal of building rapport and make the relationship even firmer.

The greatest communicators are effortless storytellers. Taking you from the mundane daily life to the pure realm of imagination. This is what all people want. Wouldn’t that be wonderful you entertain people while you tell what you want to say using a story? It’s always important to think about what the other peron would say, feel or react and change your storyline according to the change. Practice getting your mouth to move in response to your thoughts and desired rapport will come on your way!


Self-disclosures Increase Attraction (Psychology Today)
 Connection stories to build rapport (
 Building Rapport
 Establishing Strong Two-Way Connections
(Mind Tools)

Storytelling and Gossip Quotes
 Note Taking Strategies with Storytelling System

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