The following blog contribution is courtesy of ILFFPS team member Jimmy Nixon:
Peer support has an important function in the fire service and as more and more of us join the ranks, it is important to review information on how to continue to support our departments.
One very important way we can improve our effectiveness as peer supporters is by focusing on our rapport with our peers. The way the fire service operates is conducive to establishing a strong rapport with our peers already, but as peer supporters we need to pay closer attention to our rapport with the department.
Why is rapport important?
Rapport is the ability to relate to others(1). We have all understood the importance of building rapport with a patient in the ambulance or citizens in our towns. When we have rapport, they trust us and will likely work with us to solve whatever issue they have come to us for.
Building rapport in the firehouse works in a similar manner. When you work to build rapport with your department members, they will trust you when you talk about behavioral health issues and they will be more likely to come to you when they want peer support.
HOW TO BUILD RAPPORT
- Practice Active Listening skills.
Actually listen to your peers, don’t just pretend like you’re listening so you can say what you need to say when they are finished.
Engage your peers in conversation. Find common ground to talk about. Ask open-ended questions to let them lead the conversation(2).
Building rapport involves relationships with others so participation in company activities is important. Be present at pass-on, training, cleaning, cooking, etc… Don’t isolate yourself from your company(3).
Pay attention to your interactions with your peers. Reflect on how well they went and if you need to make any adjustments for next time.
We have the chance to build rapport every day at the firehouse. We also have the opportunity to ruin our chances of helping others by diminishing our rapport with them.
By building your rapport with your peers you are better able to meet their needs, share your knowledge and be accessible for peer support.