Rapport: building trust through familiarity

Common use of the language for mutual understanding of the message

How to create a connection with the reader is the topic of this fifth email in the Miirror Framework series.

First, think about the Message -- which is formed by Information and Intention.
Then think about the Reader -- which requires Rapport and Order.
Then Rewrite it.

Rapport is that level of mutual understanding among two people that make the communication flow easily. When all your ideas are effortless transmitted and fully comprehended by the other person. Your goal while writing is to create that connection with your reader.

You want to be on the same page, in several dimensions.

Vocabulary: use the same words your reader is used to. More than that, use the same expressions and forms. If you are writing for other developers, are they used to understanding OOP, or is it better to write the full form object-oriented programming? If you are writing for non-developers, they will probably be more familiar with the concept of a feature, not an epic or a user-story. Technical terms for non-developers are always a challenge. The best approach is to use the right term and briefly explain what it means in common language. Educate about the term is part of your message.

Formality: always try to match the level of formality the reader is expecting from you. If you are writing an email for someone from other company, some level of formality is expected, at least in the initial communications, even if both companies are very small and cool startups that use very informal language internally. But still less formal if compared to an email addressed to a prospective client working in a big accounting firm. It doesn't mean you should be artificially formal or informal according to whom you are writing to. It would sound fake and harm the building of trust. It means you should still be you, just a version of you that is more formal or informal according to the audience.

Text length: is your reader expecting a long-form explanation or a very short, objective message? An email already implies that the text must be shorter than an article. But even so, people have different expectations of what a short email is. Is it two small paragraphs or a one-liner? I had a boss that asked questions through email using only the subject section, with an empty body. My answers to him should be just as short, I would cut out even the traditional greetings and signature of my emails.

Thinking about the writer is a distraction from the message

These are some more actionable dimensions you can pay attention to while trying to build rapport. But the overall theme is that you want to avoid distractions. You want the reader's mind to be occupied only with your message. Not wandering about how formal you are, or how prolix you are, or even how sophisticated your vocabulary is. Complimentary thoughts to your person are still distractions from the message. Typos are also such distractions, but grammatical errors are worst offenders of this. Nothing breaks more rapport than making gross mistakes like using "their" when you meant "they're".

This level of refining assumes that your message - both information and intention - is crystal clear to the reader. That's why these adjustments of language come in the editing after the first draft. Give priority to making your message clear first, then worry about the rapport.

It also assumes that you know your reader well. Empathy is essential to be good at writing. Respect is to treat others like they expect to be treated. It is important to keep exercising this skill as it will cause a direct effect on your communication ability.