Building rapport in NLP

Establishing rapport creates an environment of trust, confidence and participation. Remember, “if you ain’t got rapport, you ain’t got nothing…”.

Mastery of rapport skills – allows you to get on with anyone anywhere – greatly increases your confidence and effectiveness – makes it easier for others to communicate with you.

General points about rapport skills

  • The dance of rapport is what we do naturally.
  • It allows you to join the other person in their Model of the World.
  • Rapport needs flexibility of thought and behaviour
  • Notice what happens when people get on well. They tend to match.
  • Notice the opposite, when people are in disagreement, they mismatch.
  • Notice when you are not getting on well with someone and try matching.
  • Make it easy for others to communicate with you by practising rapport.
  • Notice how you feel when you are matching different people.
  • Ask yourself, “How will I know when it is time to get in rapport?”.
  • Experience the world as others do. Rapport makes them and their experiences/difficulties/joys much more understandable. We get all sorts of information from body and voice that is not there in the words.
  • Notice when you are uncomfortable matching – use that as an opportunity to stretch yourself, choose that as homework/practice, seek out people who behave in that way to develop your own flexibility.
  • Liking the other person is not a prerequisite for rapport. Mutual confidence in competence for the task in hand is. If credibility for the task in hand cannot be established, consider changing the task or person.

The Three Skills

To produce any result you want you need only master the following three skills:

  1. Outcomes – know what you want, or be willing to make it up.
  2. Awareness of feedback – Sensory Acuity – notice the results that you are getting.
  3. Flexibility of thought and behaviour – keep changing what you are doing, Using feedback, to guide you until you achieve the results that you want.

The rest of NLP gives more practical skills on every aspect of this powerful model.

Skills Learning Model

All NLP skills are just that; skills. Skills only develop with practice, so if you want more communication skills, practice! Rule of thumb: 20 repeats are needed to establish a new skill or habit This is a useful model of the stages of learning any new skill:

Unconscious incompetence.
Don’t know that you don’t know.
Conscious incompetence.
Mistakes, uncomfortable, but learning.
Conscious competence.
Need to pay attention.
Unconscious competence.
Skill mastered and automatically available.

NB Remember, in learning, nothing fails like success and nothing succeeds like failure so enjoy it!

The skill of building co-operative relationships

Rapport skills enable you to quickly put others at ease and create trust. Mastering the skill of building physical rapport requires sensory acuity and behavioural flexibility on your part. These are the only two limits to your ability to produce results in this area: the degree to which you can perceive other people’s postures, gestures and speech patterns; and the elegance with which you can match them in the dance of rapport. Physical matching is only one aspect of rapport. Being aware of their inner reality is another.


The building blocks of matching are:

  • Body language
      • posture
      • orientation
      • weight distribution
      • gestures
          • arms and hands
          • legs and feet
      • facial expression
      • eye contact
      • breathing rate
  • Voice quality
      • volume
      • tone
      • pitch
      • tempo
      • sounds


Changes the other person’s behaviour by getting them to follow your lead (eg leading them from slumping, into a more upright posture, or leading them from speaking quietly, to speaking more loudly). This is one way to test that you do indeed have rapport. Having rapport and hence being able to lead others, makes it easier to achieve mutually desired outcomes (eg reaching agreement!). It also allows you to take responsibility for the outcome of all your interactions. It is, however, a choice. There may be some people with whom you would choose not to be in rapport. In which case you have the choice of mismatching.


Allows you to break rapport to interrupt or to avoid communicating. To mismatch, simply alter your body and/or voice to make them different from the other person’s. This will subtly and unconsciously interrupt the flow of communication giving you the opportunity to redirect the interaction. (NB if rapport is well established, you may find that the other person follows your behaviour as you mismatch, je you are effectively leading them; you’ll then have to keep changing your behaviour until they cease to follow you and you achieve a conclusive mismatch.)

Warning! Mismatching can seriously damage relationships – only use when direct requests fail!

en English