How to Establish Rapport in Neuro-Linguistic Programming

In our previous blog post on the objectives and applications of NLP, we learnt that establishing good RAPPORT is fundamental when it comes to working with someone successfully. It allows us to access information from the client and to help that person change without them resisting our intervention.

We know that we have established good rapport when we feel a combination of trust and respect for the other person.

We have all experienced meeting people with whom, from the very beginning, we feel that we share interests, affinities, and even personality traits. It is easy to remember the fluidity with which communication was established with that person. With barely any effort, we feel at ease and for that reason there is no apprehension when it comes to trusting them even if we have only known them for a short period of time. The new and the different are what awaken suspicion, but, in exchange, the known and the familiar provoke feelings of safety and trust.

The key to building good rapport consists of adapting to the other person. It goes beyond simple approval; it searches for adaptation in verbal language as well as non-verbal language.

This means that we try to use similar words and expressions to the ones that form a part of our interlocutor’s preferred representational system. We use a tone of voice that most closely matches the tone of our client and aim to reproduce their gestures discretely.

Techniques for building good rapport with NLP

The Mirroring Technique

Firstly, we put the MIRRORING technique into action, which consists of acting as a “mirror”. This means mimicking the verbal and non-verbal language of the person we are working with as closely as possible. It consists of reflecting their movements, posture, and rhythms. We should act like a mirror to them, generating a relationship of similarity with that person because it facilitates establishing a bond, making them feel like we understand them, like they are safe with us—always making sure that it is not obvious.

PACING

Within Mirroring we find what is called MATCHING or, more commonly, PACING, which is the process of adapting to our interlocutor. In order to do this we have to listen carefully, observe what they say and how they say it, try to adopt their way of speaking and the expressions that they use, perceive their non-verbal language and then mirror it, observing the words that they use and employing those same words ourselves. We must adapt to their tone of voice, gestures, posture, etc.

It is fundamental to do this very discretely and patiently, demonstrating our utmost respect. In other words we must be consistent and it should never be obvious to the subject. Therefore, it is recommended that it be done with a slight delay or with movements that are slightly different. This latter option is what we call “crossover mirroring”. When the interlocutor touches their face, we can touch our neck; if they stroke their hair, we can do the same thing but on our hand. If they move their head, we can move a finger with the same rhythm. If they put their scarf on, we can put our jacket on. This must always be executed in a very subtle fashion as the person should never begin to think that we are imitating them. Nothing can break rapport more easily than obvious imitation. Therefore, crossover mirroring is the best option for establishing synchronization because it is most likely to only be perceived by the unconscious.

Once we have adapted ourselves to the person, we introduce changes by lightly modifying some of the elements that we had copied to get them to follow us instead, which will drive them subtly in a new direction.

LEADING

This then brings us to LEADING, which is the process of provoking smooth changes in our interlocutor by exhibiting in ourselves the changes that we want to obtain. This can only be produced if we have previously built strong rapport through adequate pacing.

How to Tell if You are Building Effective Rapport

We can check that we are achieving our aim by observing whether the person is beginning to unconsciously mimic our own movements or postures and is adapting them personally. To test it out, we could lower our tone of voice and wait until the other person lowers their tone as well, we could decrease our breathing frequency until we observe that they have also decreased their breathing pattern, or we could introduce words from a different system of perception and check that they also begin to use these terms. This is how we gently, in an almost imperceptible way, induce a kind of hypnotic trance. Once we have gained the person’s confidence, we can guide them through their process of change.

Have you ever tried this technique? Let us know what you thought of it!

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