NLP rapport is the ability to relate to others in a way that creates trust and understanding. It is the ability to see the other’s point of view and get them to understand yours. You don’t have to agree with their point of view or even like it. It makes any form of communication easier.
Successful interactions depend largely on our ability to establish and maintain rapport. Surprisingly, we make most business decisions based on rapport rather than technical merit. You are more likely to buy from, agree with, or support someone you can relate to than someone you can’t.
NLP rapport techniques, like many other aspects of NLP are quite subtle but extremely powerful in their implications and effects. Dictionaries define rapport as a relationship marked by harmony, conformity, accord or affinity. It supports agreement, alignment, likeness or similarity.
There are two ways to see other people. You can choose to emphasize the differences or the similarities between you. You can always find things you have in common with someone, even if it is just being human. Likewise, there will always be differences between you and another. Even clones would have different experiences.
If you emphasize the differences, you will find it hard to establish rapport. By emphasizing commonalities, resistance and antagonism will generally disappear, and cooperation will improve. With practice, it becomes easy to find what we share with other people and focus on it.
NLP rapport is established and maintained by pacing. By definition, this is the process of moving as the other person moves. Pacing or matching accepts the other person’s behavior and meets them in their model of the world. It is about reducing the differences between yourself and others at an unconscious level.
You can pace or match many different aspects of behavior. Of course, if the other person is aware you are matching their behavior it becomes mimicry. Obvious attempts to “copy” people will break rapport. Successful pacing is at an unconscious level.
When rapport is established, you can influence the other person’s behavior. If you would like to know if you have rapport, you can make a movement and find out if they follow you. For instance, you might scratch your nose and see if the other person does the same.
What you can match
Matching is something we all do naturally in some contexts. Watch what happens when someone talks to a small child. They might crouch down to the child’s height, talk more slowly (or excitedly). Romantic couples in restaurants often seem to be engaged in a dance, leaning and smiling in mirror postures.
You can adjust your whole body, half body or part of your body to match the other. Matching typical poses that the other person offers with their head and shoulders is useful. If the body posture is unusual however, matching can seem disrespectful. Subtlety is vital.
You can match the rate of a person’s breathing, where they are breathing (chest, abdomen or stomach) or how deep. This is not a good technique if the person has difficulty with breathing, as you may feel similar symptoms.
Matching the pace, volume, pitch, tone and type of words is a little tricky to learn but worth it. Try watching a TV program in a foreign language in order to notice these auditory processing distinctions. You don’t have to try to match all these aspects. Choose one. If a person is talking slowly, slow down. If they speak softly, drop your volume.
Beliefs and values
Authentically trying to understand another person’s beliefs and values without judgment can create very deep rapport. Once again, you do not have to agree with them or change any of your own values; the goal is to understand.
Matching language patterns is a favorite NLP rapport technique with sales and marketing people. By using the same words to describe things and processes, the person feels understood.
Listen for their power words. We’ve often learned to paraphrase what someone says rather than use the same words. We call it active listening. This is mistake when it comes to NLP rapport. We attach particular words to corresponding experiences. If someone says she wants to be confident and you talk about her capability, you can miss the rapport boat.
Matching representational systems can be very powerful and subtle. Has anyone had a conversation like this? “I just can’t see the big picture here” “Well you need to read the instructions more carefully” This is a mismatch of representational systems.
Further Reading: Persuasion Engineering Summary