NLP Rapport. What is rapport in NLP?
It is a sense of connection, acceptance and openness between people, allowing communication to happen on a subtler, automatic level. In this article we explore rapport and link to our unique 1:1 worldwide NLP Training.
Rapport is helpful in a number of situations :
- It helps us to lead. Sometimes it’s essential to create and maintain rapport. Sometimes it’s helpful to break it – if we have too much rapport with someone, we’re open to them influencing us, which may not be in either of our best interests. Curiously, if rapport has been established and we break it, our client will likely follow us to establish it again. This is called pacing and leading.
- It helps us to learn. We become highly receptive to subtle information when we are in tune with another and pick up things on a nonverbal level, much like a child learning from a parent.
- It helps us in creating an accepting environment for others. It’s worth remembering that when we ask good coaching questions, we’re often asking our clients to explore something important to them that they may not have had the courage to explore, Not only their thoughts but their memories and feelings. We’re asking them to share with us the processes they’re going through. We are asking for access to a side of them that very rarely sees daylight and, as such, may be incredibly vulnerable. A state of rapport, therefore, is crucial to allow them to feel supported and accepted as they explore and express these truths.
What leads to rapport?
The classic NLP approach ro build rapport is to develop ‘likeness’ using any representation system or combination of representational system. However there are other approaches that I’ve found useful in different contexts.
- ‘Likeness’, this is the basic NLP approach to rapport, and is very powerful. The rest of this pages develops this NLP approach. This includes similarities in each representational system and in meta-programmes.
- Talking about what’s really important to the other person, this leads them into getting into rapport with us. Finding out what’s important to another person may be as simple as asking them, or it may be much more of a challenge (they don’t know themselves, or they specifically don’t want to say.
- ‘Validate and encourage’ the other person. Again can be very powerful before attempting to ‘correct and convincing.’
- *Let the other person feel heard. (This may be an impact of rapport, rather than leading to it, however I consider it so important that I’ve added it as a bullet point),
- ‘Be vulnerable’, share something personal and risky. Requires courage, and we don’t want to share everything to everyone! Asking for help can be a variation of this.
- Be a bit ‘alpha’ sometimes people like to be led.
What leads to feeling heard*
This is work in progres, however these are some clients suggestions, which compliment the basic NLP approaches:
- Eye contact from the listener
- Listener not multi-tasking
- The listener building on the point that was made in a relevant way, or responding with an appropriate gesture/facial expression (like sadness, shock, a smile, a hug etc.)
- The listener relating the experience being described back to a similar example in their own experience
- The listener asking relevant questions to understand more about what was said
- Not being interrupted
NLP Rapport building techniques
It is about being ‘like’ or ‘similar’ to someone. It’s difficult to fake rapport (we tend to notice, and it creates precisely the opposite effect.)
However, we can encourage it if we:
- focus on similarities rather than differences. If, before a meeting, we create a checklist of similarities and talk through common ground, we will increase rapport. If we already dislike someone, even slightly, we’re likely to focus on how we’re different.
- ask a few questions where we’ll get genuine yes answers. This requires careful planning because we must think about what is true in the other person’s reality.
- are aware of context. If we want to establish rapport in a business situation, it’s not the time and place to be too informal – save it for the bar afterwards!
- mirror posture and language. It could also be vocal tone, pace and use of words. If we’re exploring hypnosis and are looking for a deeper rapport, we match breathing rates.
- talk about what’s of genuine interest to the other person. We will likely speed up the rapport process if we reflect a client’s values.
- Demonstrate vulnerability. I like the term ‘courageous vulnerability’, as it’s taking a real risk being venerable, however if we aren’t honest and open with people we’ll never develop a great relationship. If anyone attempts to use what we’ve said against us, we’ve learnt a useful lesson, that we may not be able to trust them, and to me more guarded in the future.
- always start positive. Assume you’ll get into rapport quickly and have a really enjoyable and valuable interaction. However, respond to what actually happens.
The dangers of too much
- When we’re in rapport with a number of depressed people, we’re likely to take on their depression. A working strategy when working with those in negative states is to get into rapport for a short period of time, break it and lead them to somewhere more useful.
- When we are in a position of authority, we may not want to get into rapport, as we’re likely to be open to too much influence from others.
- As rapport strengthens empathy and sympathy with other people, it becomes very difficult to disappoint them: As a fact of life, we often have to say no.
Senior people and seducers
- Senior people may avoid getting into too much for very pragmatic reasons. They want to protect themselves from being influenced too much. And they may perceive someone who gets into rapport too quickly as not being leadership material. We may need to clash (appropriately) to establish our worth.
- Senior people and seducers may ‘test’ us for emotional strength by continually making and breaking rapport.
Establish rapport before checking to understand
Whilst in rapport with someone, it is very easy to get the impression that we understand what they are talking about on a logical level, but this might not be the case. We have to take some time to check this understanding.
To establish it, we want to use similar words to our client. Using different words, that is, paraphrasing using our own language, damages rapport – but this is necessary for clarifying what they mean to us.
A good practice is establishing it first by using our client’s language and then gaining agreement to check to understand using our own words.
What is the test for rapport nlp
There is is famous NLP saying, ‘Pace and then lead’, if we get into rapport (pace their behavior, join them in their map of the world), and we do any reasonable (and sometimes unreasonable) behavior they will follow us.) For example if we were to touch our chin, they are likely to touch theirs.
Suggested NLP Rapport Exercises
- Before meeting with someone, find out what you have in common. The mental process will help you get into it. Test what happens.
- When you first meet someone, take a few seconds to note their posture. Let yourself match some aspect of their posture in one or two areas (i.e. are they slouching or folding their arms?)
- When in doubt, assume you have rapport.
- Practise breaking rapport (For example, by changing the subject of a conversation to something they might not be interested in.) and then re-establishing it quickly afterwards.
- Group activities like singing or games that get people in sync improve team working
- Great friendships often need it, together with a time commitment and disclosure.
These are included to widen your views on the topic. As always, test everything for yourself.
The One Sentence Persuasion Course – 27 Words to Make the World Do Your Bidding, Kindle Edition
How can a cult leader convince someone to fly a plane into a building, killing themselves and many others, whereas a coach can’t convince their client to lose weight and have a longer, happier life? What is going on? Blair Warren’s short book suggests some answers related to rapport.
The one sentence referred to in the book is, “People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies.” We need to ‘validate and encourage‘ before we attempt to ‘Correct and convince‘; how many times do we ‘Correct and convince’ and are then surprised we simply get ‘push-back’? Similar to the concept of pacing first, then lead.
See more: The One Sentence Persuasion Course.
Clear Leadership: Sustaining Real Collaboration and Partnership at Work Second
Gervase Bushe suggests a different model. He proposes that the two extremes are ‘fused’ and ‘disconnected’, and the ideal is a state between the two that he describes as ‘self-differentiated.’
In self-differentiated, I am responsible for the impact you have on me, and I am responsible for the impact I have on you.
|Too connected||Separate and connected||Too separate|
|No boundaries||Choice of boundaries||Rigid boundaries|
|Reactive to interaction||Choice of reactive to interaction/person||Reactive to person|
|Own experience based on others’ experience||Wants to know what others experience but stays true to self||Doesn’t think about what the other person is wanting, feeling or thinking|
How to communicate our experience (so others can understand our maps better):
Essential skills to do this include: self-awareness, descriptiveness, curiosity and appreciation.
See more: Clear leadership.
NLP Rapport video, Michael explains why rapport matters.
In the next section, we ask: Where are you now? And explore the Meta Model.
Worldwide 1:1 NLP Training
We offer unique worldwide NLP Training, designed for business and professional clients, certified by NLP co-founder Richard Bandler and the SNLP. We are currently offering three free discovery sessions so you can test our approach for yourself.