Community Communication

As social scientist, watching people and asking questions is one of our strongest tools. What better way to find out about a person than asking them? Or watching them in their everyday life? It is important however to make sure we are asking the right questions. We also must make sure we are asking the right people. What do we want to know? What experiences does this person have that would make them the right person to ask? How can I ask this question to get the best results?
One of the biggest challenges of conducting research is making sure we are getting good data. Asking questions for research can be a little different from the questions we use in everyday conversations. As such, researchers use special techniques, so we know the data we collected is accurate and appropriate for research. We could talk about the techniques in question constructions, but that’s a whole other blog post. I want to focus on what the researcher does in face-to-face interactions. Once we are ready to start asking our questions, the research must establish what is called rapport.
Rapport is basically how receptive you are when being asked questions and how receptive you are to answering questions. If you are unable to establish rapport you may find your conversation ending early, as the interviewee may become bored or generally unreceptive to your questions. It may seem obvious that you need to establish a friendly mood before you start asking questions, but it can also go the other way. Become too friendly and you may find the person you’re asking questions giving answers that aren’t 100% honest. Your overenthusiastic tone may result in your study containing more of what the interviewee thinks you want to hear – not what they truly believe. What can we do as researchers to overcome this?
As you can see, managing rapport throughout an interview can be a task of its own. When conducting interviews, researchers must be aware of their tone of voice, their body language, and their facial cues. But what other ways can rapport be threatened? Most relevant to us as guests in this community, we must be aware of our social locations and history. We must be conscious of the privilege our institution grants us. We must be conscious of the history between this community and our institutions (and by extension ourselves and this community). What can we do to overcome this? It seems to me the most important tool in the researcher’s garden shed is mindfulness and conscientiousness.

The first few minutes of this ted talk can be a helpful introduction, and provides some new thoughts on rapport.

How big of an impact do you think our history will play in establishing a connection with the community? Does is present positives and negatives?
Do you have any tips for establishing report? Any tips to avoid taking the connection too far?


  • Hayley Winker

    At the beginning I thought that our history would have a bigger impact on our connection with the community. However, as this project has begun, and we have started to engage with the community it seems that our history at this point has not had a negative impact with the community. It seems that so far, our affiliation with SIUE has been one that is positive and one that the community is appreciative of. When it comes to establishing report it is important to project that while we do not live in this community we are just as excited about the project and the future of this community.

  • Rachel Green

    I think that a way that we could establish rapport within the community while conducting interviews would be to not only ask them questions about what they think their community needs from the project, but also interview them on the history of the community and their experiences within. I think that it is important that we show that we are interested in building on this relationship and expanding our mindfulness and conscientiousness with the community, as well as making sure the project is a success. We want to be completely representative of the community with this project and if we don’t establish this rapport, then the project will not be an accurate representation and will not provide the community with what it needs from it.

  • Arieanna Morris

    I agree that rapport is something that helps in conversation and is essential to research. Personally, I know that building rapport with people is something I need to work on. Being unable to build appropriate rapport with people in research will ruin the research. We need to be able to build trust and open communication with the community we are working with in order for the project to flourish to its full potential.

  • Linda J. Aguirre

    Agree! Building connections with the person you’re interviewing helps understand better what they are sharing with you. Not only that, it helps the conversation go smoothly between the interviewer and the interviewee that way there are no awkward pauses or moments in general.

  • Breanne

    I also agree that rapport is essential to research because if you are conducting interviews or research, the trust of participants will allow for either rich data or not rich data. Basically, data that is full of context and detail and can add to your research and explain certain things, whereas not rich data does not provide as much detail and context. So, in order to have really good rich data, having the participants trust and willingness to talk with you is how you get good, rich data. Especially if one is doing an ethnography, this data helps tremendously with research and completing a good ethnography.

  • Nikolle

    I like everyone’s comments so far. I think the comments really show how important a good rapport is not only in every research project but especially in ones that involve a community. One of my main values in life is good communication. I try to make sure that I am being precise and clear and timely when communicating with someone. As far as tips for taking the connection too far, I think the main thing is just to have clear communication about the goals and purpose of your rapport.

  • Suprasanna Aryal

    I also agree that in order to establish a rapport, interviewers must first make interviewees comfortable talking to them. For instance, if it is a group interview, a brief icebreaker game can come handy as it is a platform for interviewers and interviewees to get to know each other on a personal level. Similarly, having a brief casual conversation before the formal interview also can help establish a rapport. I also agree that a tip for a good interview is to know what sort of answers you are expecting from interviewees so that the conversation does not end up being wayward.

  • Danielle Kulina

    I think after hearing of this history of SIUE with the community, there is definitely negative energy around the relationship. I think we can make a good impact and act as a starting way to change that history into positive change. Speaking about establishing report with the community, I think just being more involved with them. I agree what you said about acting too excited can generate answers that are truthful.

  • Amy Yates

    Given the history that the community has with the University, and other researchers, I think the rapport that we have will be even more important. Like you said, if we seem too excited the respondents may say what they think you want to hear. However, on the other side of it, if we seem too distant, or uninterested, then they may think we’re not sincere in our intentions.
    As far as the impact we will or could make in the community, I think it will depend on how we handle the next few months and farther. I truly think that if we really listen to the residents and work with them in accomplishing what they want then we could have a very positive impact. The other side of that is that if we don’t listen, or do what we think is best as opposed to what they think, then we will be perpetuating the animosity between the community and the University, deepening that divide.

  • Razan Mansour M

    Thank you Scott for sharing the video! I enjoyed learning more about rapport, I heard about the mirroring-technique to build a better rapport with others but haven’t think of it in the way he described in the video. About your question regarding the impact of the history between SIUe and Washington park, I don’t think there is negative impact, on the contrary, I feel that Washington park is not what we think it was. They actually welcomed us and put their hands on ours to build together a community garden that Washington Park deserves.