Establishing Rapport

How do you initially build rapport in your sessions? For my final paper, I wish to explore this question and would appreciate any input.

For writers, areas of weakness can be difficult to expose. We have only a brief time to work with a writer, and often delve into some sensitive areas or deep topics during these sessions. How do we create a comfortable environment for our writers and establish rapport with them (through our language and behavior)?

In "Asking the Right Questions: A Heuristic for Tutors" The Writing Center Journal. [9.1 (1988): 28-35], Evelyn Ashton-Jones asks: "What are the students actions telling me about his or her attitude? . . . How is the student perceiving me? What kinds of messages am I unconsciously sending? . . . How can I put the student at ease? Establish rapport? Set the stage for this session?"

What are some answers to these questions?

Some ways I think we build rapport:
By greeting writers immediately when they enter our center.
By using the writer's name.
By following the writer's lead--sometimes through unconscious echoing or imitating.
Adopting an attitude of listening (tilting head, etc.).
Recognizing regulars by remembering details from previous sessions.

Can you think of others? Perhaps this is a bit customer-service oriented?


  1. For me, establishing rapport is one of the most important steps in the process. I am actually trying to build my pedagogy around it. I think without establishing a good working relationship with the students that come through our doors, we are risking a bad consultation.
    At the same time, though, I think it is very important to try to make that relationship as natural as possible. I think having experienced tutors to draw from is certainly helpful, but I feel like the process of establishing rapport has to be organic. I guess the idea of running through a checklist when it comes to interpersonal relationships just feels too sterile to me. That's not to say that we shouldn't keep these things in mind. We are putting forth an image that reflects on the Writing Center, and on the university. But, we can use our own experience of interacting with people (we've been doing it our whole lives) to guide the mood of the consultation.
    We have been talking a lot in class about following scripts in the writing center, and I think we have all pretty much landed in the same general area. It is great to have a foundation based on the experience of others, but it is equally important to build on that with our own material to create a unique experience for our students.
    We have heard a lot about the metaphors for the writing center (i.e. fix-it-shop, hospital) and I think in order to escape those classifications, we have to trust our instincts. Each student that walks through that door carries with them worries and concerns that are unique to them. I think it is also important to remember that no matter how convenient it would be for students to fit a profile perfectly, they never will (I think we had this discussion in class last week regarding the last article we read), so it is up to us to be open and flexible. I think the real art of establishing rapport is being able to navigate around the little information we get from our students and being able to find a way to identify with them.


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