Researchers at Boston University Medical School studied films of people having conversations. The researchers noticed that the people talking began (unconsciously) to co-ordinate their movements (including finger movements, eye blinks and head nods.) When they were monitored using electroencepholographs, it was found that some of their brain waves were spiking at the same moment. As the conversations progressed, these people were getting into rapport with each other.

The phenomenon of rapport is well-known in the world of NLP and beyond as a starting-point for influential communication. It’s mentioned in countless NLP and influence texts, and crops up in most sales training programs. Yet what ‘is’ rapport, and how can you use it to help yourself and others?

What is rapport?


Rapport is a major requirement for productive communication , and is based on a simple principle that all good salespeople understand – people like people who are like them. It doesn’t matter whether  you are selling a product , an idea or yourself , if you want the other person to “buy” it , you will have a better chance if you can establish a common ground. When people like you, they will be willing to help you get what you want.

Once you learn how to establish and maintain rapport with just about everyone you meet, you can have just about anything you want.

To understand rapport, first we need to look at the nature of communication. Whenever people communicate, only 7 percent of the message is in what you say. Approximately 38 percent of your communication in conveyed through your tone of voice and 55 percent is conveyed through your body language.

People interpret a message through a combination of words , the tone of voice and the body language used by the person who is speaking. If your conscious mind does not pick up on all three elements , often your unconscious mind will step in and pick up the nonverbal part of the message.

Rapport has been described as what happens when we get the attention of someone’s unconscious mind, and meet them at their ‘map of the world.’ It is more commonly understood as the sense of ease and connection that develops when you are interacting with someone you trust and feel comfortable with. Rapport emerges when people are in-sync with each other.

Rapport is an emergent property of the system (group), like a fit of the giggles or a pregnant pause. As such, it’s not possible to ’cause’ or ‘do’ rapport; you can however massively increase the likelihood of rapport emerging when you are communicating with another person.

Studies have showmen that people are more inclined to buy from , agree with and support someone they related to than someone with whom they feel no connection

When observing people who are in rapport , it has been noted that the greatest similarities between the two people were in the areas of :

-          Breathing

-          Voice tones and quality

-          Posture

-          Movement and gesture

-          Language content – visual / auditory/ feelings and key words

-          Beliefs

-          Values

Rapport start with calibration : recognizing changes in another person’s state and noticing specific conditions of body posture , breathing , vocal quality and movements

Then identify consciously the physiological communication that is usually taken in and processed on an unconscious level .

Mirroring :

Mirroring happens when you are copying the behavior of another as if you were mirror reflection of them .

When you mirror someone you are simply offering that person a reflection of himself , but this simple technique has a very powerful impact because of the way people respond to their own behavior . when you offer back to another their own behavior , they relate to in on an unconscious level and experience a sense of affinity . Nothing in life is so satisfying as a reflection of ourselves in another person . it is therefore a powerful tool you can use when you establish a rapport with another person.

It is important to note here that mirroring is not mimicking which is conscious exact copying of another person’s behavior . mimicking considered rude and will not help establishing rapport .

How do you mirror without being perceived as mimicking ?

By pacing your responses a few seconds after the other person’s movement

Pacing and leading

Pacing and leading is one of the keys to influencing people. It refers to meeting them at their map of the world (pacing) and then taking them where you want them to go (leading.) Rapport is a basic, behavioural signal that you have met someone at their map of the world. The simplest, most effective test for rapport is “if you lead, they follow.”

2) Choose a safe situation to practice mirroring an element of someone else’s behavior. When you have mirrored them for a while, and think you are in rapport with the person, scratch your nose. If they lift their hand to their face within the next minute or so, congratulate yourself – you have led their behavior!

Skilled communicators have a wide range of behaviors they can mirror to build rapport. You can find a way to mirror virtually anything you can observe.

3) Increase the range of behaviors that you can mirror, and introduce deliberate rapport-building into situations where it will benefit you and others (nb. Use your common sense and choose low-risk situations to practice in.)

More advanced

Many people (especially in sales) are familiar with rapport-building techniques and are particularly aware of body posture mirroring. Cross-over matching involves matching another person’s behavior with a different behavior of your own (eg. matching their breathing rate to your head tilt, or their eye blinks to your foot-taps.) This is a way of building rapport that is very difficult to detect, and still highly effective.