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Why an Afternoon Tea Is a Good Idea to Build a Professional Rapport: 5 Tips to Know

By Elizabeth Soós, Etiquette Expert, Entrepreneur

I never thought I would hear the day when building a professional rapport, building goes hand in hand with afternoon tea! It, honestly, does sound like Alison in Wonderland; however, there is more in this than you imagine.

What is rapport? According to researchers Linda Tickle-Degnen and Robert Rosenthal, rapport has “three interrelating components: mutual attentiveness, positivity, and coordination.” The first mutual attentiveness is when the other person you are speaking to is the centre of your attention. Positivity refers to where you are both reciprocating happiness, respect and kindness. The last point is coordination. You both are equally participating and syncing where you both find common ground and understanding.

We all want to build rapport when networking and enjoy connecting with other professionals to assist our business. It is part of the first impression principle.

Understanding the meaning of rapport helps give you a more comprehensive lens into why you should accept that ‘afternoon tea’ networking event! You might be thinking, why can’t we use a meeting room and hash it out?

In the book ‘The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want’ by Dave Kerpen, he explained that over 20 meetings he attended, [Kerpen] either refused or accepted a beverage.

The outcome of his research? ‘The meetings at which I took the offer of coffee, soda or water went significantly better than the ones at which I didn’t.’

You might be thinking a simple drink offered and accepted has a better outcome than a drink that is offered and refused; why? When offered a drink, it may be a mechanical offering, just something ‘that is polite and always been done!’ Conversely, it is about breaking up a serious or tense situation, allowing your host in a way to give, making them feel they are doing their best, it can be used for you to think and gather your thoughts for a few seconds and cuts seriousness and you can show your authentic self.

Can we apply this by-the-way research to afternoon tea? What if you were invited to an afternoon tea on a professional relationship-building exercise?

Take the invitation and run with it! Afternoon tea is an elegant affair that allows both of you to size each other up and see how each other performs. It is a way for both of you to relax, talk, laugh, and use the event as a strategic prop, gather and organise your thoughts and a better sense of the person you are with, and avoid other awkwardness.

What are some things to remember when going to an afternoon tea?

#1 - Turning up on time is essential. Although a casual affair, it will also show your host you are on time and ready to commit and put the hard work into the collaboration.

#2 - Afternoon tea is a day event, never in the evening. This type of rapport building exercise helps you be at the peak of your day rather than the evening when your body and mind start winding down.

#3 - Choose tea rather than alcohol. Yes, you might be more relaxed with alcohol; however, you may also be too comfortable with what comes out of your mouth.

#4 - Afternoon tea is a time to dress professionally with a bit of flair. It allows you to be expressive with your business wear, so don’t be scared to add a little colour, not going overboard.

#5 - Knowing your way around an afternoon tea shows that you are deft not only at business but displays you are knowledgeable and adaptable at a moment’s notice.

The bonus point and probably the most crucial point is to turn your phone off or silent and non-vibrate. Being distracted with your phone while connecting with another professional can send negative silent signals to the other. You always want to give your 100% as it is a time to shine, analyze, and work out if this collaboration or network situation is right for you.


About the Author, Elizabeth Soós

Elizabeth Soos is the founder of Auersmont School of Etiquette based in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia. For Elizabeth, etiquette was ‘king’ when at home; her parents had taught her the European standards. Together with self-directed studies, she completed the Train-the-Trainer course offered by Emma Dupont’s School of Etiquette in London. To further her education, Elizabeth became certified in Chinese Etiquette with Ms. Joy Koh at Image Avenue. Next, she completed her studies with Guillaume Rue de Bernadac at Academie de Bernadac, based in Paris and Shanghai, for excellence in customer service. And more so, becoming an expert in grooming through Makeup Mode Masterclass located in Sydney.

Elizabeth’s enjoys working with people of all ages, backgrounds and travels to meet her clients all over Australia. In addition, she has positioned herself as an etiquette coach voice of authority, featuring in The West Australian and The Sunday Times media outlets. She firmly believes that etiquette is a life-changing skill, an attainable precious possession that lasts a lifetime.

If you'd like to connect with Elizabeth on LinkedIn, see here. You can look at her website here.


Linda Tickle-Degnen and Robert Rosenthal -


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