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Building Rapport With Staff

By Amanda Buchmeier, M.S., BCBA, LBA

As behavior analysts, much of our time is spent providing coaching and training to the staff responsible for implementing behavioral interventions. Direct care staff may have limited knowledge of the principles of applied behavior analysis and the use of behavior analytic strategies; therefore, we may need to change staff behavior in order to change clients’ behavior. Taking the time to build rapport with staff before asking them to change what they are doing will make them more receptive to your suggestions and feedback. Here are five strategies for building rapport with staff:

Learn their names

Dale Carnegie once said, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language (Carnegie, 1981, p. 88).” It takes concentration to learn people’s names, but greeting someone by name adds a personal touch and shows attentiveness.

Find out some of their personal interests

Knowing what staff enjoy doing outside of work enables you to connect with them on a personal level and will help them feel at ease. The next time you come on site, ask how things are going before addressing the items on your agenda.

Ask questions

Give staff the opportunity to educate you about their work environment by asking questions. This conveys that you are interested in learning how they do things and that you are not just there to tell them what to do.

Acknowledge things they are doing well

If you notice staff doing something that you would like to see continue or increase, provide positive feedback. Doing so pairs yourself with praise and recognition.

Offer assistance

If staff forget an item or are having a hard time managing a situation, offer your assistance by asking how you can help. This shows that you are willing to lend a hand and work together.

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