Building Rapport with One-on-One Consultations
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
As the world of teleconsultations continues to grow, it is vital to establish positive rapport with clients to ensure successful session outcomes. Building rapport plays a huge role in making clients feel safe about sharing their personal journey and it also helps you to communicate freely and work with your client as a team. But how can retail dietitians build rapport with clients online over chats and video calls? Here are some tips.
- Be prepared – Review any paperwork before your session to help you with points of reference during your virtual session. Being prepared shows the client that you value your time together and they are important to you. It also demonstrates your attention to client details, avoids having your client repeat topics they may have already shared, and helps to establish trust.
- Look into your webcam – Ensure your lighting is good and invest in a high-quality webcam. Face forward during your session and look into the camera during introductions, when asking questions and when ending a session. If you need to look away to take notes, or refer to other documents, let your client know what you are doing. This makes you predictable and helps your client feel safe.
- Find common ground – You can connect with clients more easily when there is a common thread between you. For example, if you personally were able to lose weight or reduce your elevated cholesterol, feel free to share your experience. This makes you human and offers a glimmer of hope. And remember, if a client is sharing their views on a topic, it’s important to validate what they have told you before challenging their perspective. Doing so can make them defensive and less likely to be open.
- Silence is golden – According to research, the best rapport is established when at least 4% to 20% of the session is spent in silence. Quiet time gives clients space to ponder, reflect and consider how to respond when they are ready.
- Emulate your client’s manners – In order to help your clients become comfortable with you, try to speak their language. Observe their manner of speaking – is it soft or fast? What type of phases do they use? Try to emulate the same style using similar words and tone.
- Practice active listening – Counseling involves a lot of listening and active listening is vital to achieving desired outcomes through online consultations. Ask questions, listen intently and observe the emotional state of your clients. Then let them know you heard what they are saying.
- Encourage questions – Giving clients time to ask questions and communicate their concerns provides you with important information and the opportunity to demonstrate your listening skills.
- Individualize your approach – Every client is unique and a one-size-fits-all approach to consultations is typically ineffective. Ask clients what has worked or not worked in past counseling experiences. If they are new to counseling ask them to share if something is bothering them about your time together. Determine if there are educational limitations, language barriers, cultural differences, or psychosocial impediments. These questions and insights will allow you to conduct a personalized and more meaningful session while strengthening the relationship.