NLP Coaching | Rapport


Rapport is a sense of connection, acceptance and openness between people; which allows communication to happen on a far subtler, automatic level.

It is useful in a number of situations :

  • Rapport helps us to lead. Sometimes it’s important to create and maintain rapport. Sometimes it’s useful 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 is likely to follow us in order to establish if 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 that’s important to them, that they themselves may have not 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.

How to increase rapport

Rapport is about being ‘like’ or ‘similar’ to someone. It’s difficult to fake rapport (we tend to notice and it creates exactly 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 have to think about what have to be true in the other persons 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 their use of words. If we’re exploring hypnosis and are looking for a deeper rapport we match breathing rates.
  • talk about what’s genuinely of interest to the other person. If we reflect a client’s values we are likely to speed up the rapport process.
  • always start positive. Assume you’ll get into rapport easily and have a really enjoyable and useful interaction. However respond to what actually happens.

The dangers of too much rapport

  • 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 rapport 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 understanding

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 rapport we want to use similar words to our client. Using different words, that is to paraphrase using our own language, goes some way to damaging rapport – but this is necessary in clarifying what they mean to us.

Good practice is to establish rapport first by using our client’s language and then gaining agreement to check understanding by 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 in rapport. 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, 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 rapport, a time commitment and disclosure

Recommended Book

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 loose weight and have have a longer, happier life? What is going on? Blair Warren’s short book suggests some answers, and it relates 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’. A similar to concept to pace first, then lead.

The One Sentence Persuasion Course – 27 Words to Make the World Do Your Bidding, Kindle Edition

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.

NLP Online Training | Ultimate NLP and Coaching

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