Coaching | NLP and 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.

NLP Rapport
NLP Rapport

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.

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.
  • 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.

Suggested Exercises

  1. Before meeting with someone, find out what you have in common. The mental process will help you get into it. Test what happens.
  2. 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?)
  3. When in doubt, assume you have rapport.
  4. 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.

Additional Notes

  1. Group activities like singing or games that get people in sync improve team working
  2. Great friendships often need it, together with a time commitment and disclosure.

Recommended Books

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

One Sentance Persuasion Course
One Sentance Persuasion Course

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

Clear leadership
Clear Leadership

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.

FusedSelf DifferentiatedDisconnected
Too connectedSeparate and connectedToo separate
No boundariesChoice of boundariesRigid boundaries
Reactive to interactionChoice of reactive to interaction/personReactive to person
Own experience based on others’ experienceWants to know what others experience but stays true to selfDoesn’t think about what the other person is wanting, feeling or thinking

How to communicate our experience (so others can understand our maps better):

  • Observation
  • Feeling
  • Thinking
  • Wants

Essential skills to do this include: self-awareness, descriptiveness, curiosity and appreciation.

See more: Clear leadership.

In this video, Michael explains why rapport matters.

NLP Coaching | Rapport

In the next section, we ask: Where are you now? And explore the Meta Model.

Full NLP Techniques List

NLP Coaching Section Index

1: NLP Coaching Introduction
2: Success system and model
3: NLP coaching model
4: Beginning frame
5: States and anchors
6: End goals and direction
7: Rapport
8: Where are you
9: Getting to there
10: Mental rehearsal
11: End frame
12: Summary
13: CEO and executive coaching follow up

NLP Coaching Rapport
NLP Coaching Rapport