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Rapport Building Techniques for Effective Communication

Rapport building is a key skill for effective communication. Discover tools to improve your communication, by instantly building rapport with others.

You can achieve more from your communication with another person if you have good rapport. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, rapport is defined as a close and harmonious relationship where there is common understanding. Rapport can also be described as a state of connectedness, familiarity, trust and responsiveness between two or more people.

What is Effective Communication?

Your communication is either more or less effective, based on how your message is received by your audience. Effective communication is about creating understanding and making sure that the meaning you intend, is the meaning your audience gets.

It is also the ability to adjust your methods and your message if the understanding is not there. A good level of connection and responsiveness between the two parties can help to create understanding.

Rapport Building as a Tool for Influence

Rapport building is a key skill for effective communication, and an essential tool of influence. Business leaders benefit from the type of trust and responsiveness created by rapport, when they are looking for agreement and commitment from the staff in their organization.

Similarly, in a sales environment, a state of responsiveness and trust is essential for any sales person to gain compliance from their prospective customer. Parents and teachers also benefit from building rapport, when attempting to have a high impacting influence on their children and students.

Building Rapport Based on Similarities

According to wealth strategist Christopher Howard, in his book Turning Passions into Profits, familiarity and similarities between people can instantaneously elevate their conversation to a more open level.

Rapport building is based on the idea that people, who are like each other, will usually like each other. We tend to hang around with people who we have things in common with, and we look for common interests and experiences when forming relationships.


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Have you ever met someone new with whom you shared many similarities, and quickly felt like you had known them forever? This type of deep rapport, based on similarities and common experiences, usually relies on having significant things in common with the other person.

Origins of Instant Rapport Building

Rapport is created unconsciously in many day to day engagements between individuals, but it can also be created instantaneously and intentionally.

Instant rapport building techniques began when Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the creators of Neuro linguistic Programming (NLP), were modeling famed psychiatrist Dr Milton Erickson.

Having observed Erickson during sessions with his clients, Bandler and Grinder noticed that he was able to create a deep connection, by sitting as his clients sat, emulating their posture, and moving as they moved. This observation evolved into the inclusion of matching and mirroring in the NLP rapport building process.

Rapport Building in Effective Communication Skills Training

According to anthropologist Ray Birdwhistle, in his book Kinesics and Context, effective communication is determined only 7% by our words, 38% by our vocal tonality and 55% by our physiology (how we use our bodies).

While all three of these elements must be used to get your message across fully, physiology is the aspect that’s most outside our conscious awareness, and has the biggest influence on our audience.

NLP training teaches the practitioner to build a deep level of rapport by matching and mirroring these three aspects when communicating with clients. Though this may seem manipulative, it’s just a matter of bringing into conscious awareness what we already do unconsciously when in rapport with someone. It’s about making sure the other person feels comfortable and connected during your conversation.

Building Rapport with Matching and Mirroring

If you observe two people who are in a deep state of rapport with each other, you will notice that they naturally tend to match and mirror each other’s posture, movement, facial expressions and gestures.

This method can be used intentionally to build rapport with someone. You can also match and mirror their breathing or their blink rate, in order to build rapport at the unconscious level.

You can match and mirror the language of the other person by using the key words and phrases they use often. You can also mirror someone’s speech by paying attention to the speed, tone, pitch, volume and the timbre (the quality of the sound).

This does not mean mimicking them. Matching and mirroring should be done naturally enough to be kept out of the conscious awareness of the other person.

Indicators of Successful Rapport Building

So how do you know when your attempts at building rapport have been successful? There are four main indicators of having successfully created rapport:

  • A feeling of connection with the other person – this feeling is quite easily recognized when it is present.

  • A color shift from lighter to darker in the other person – this represents a change from sympathetic to parasympathetic.

  • They say something that indicates familiarity, like “have we met before somewhere?”

  • You move or change position, and the other person unconsciously follows. This is called leading, and it’s a strong indication of rapport.

Creating a Genuine Connection when Building Rapport

While using these techniques can help you speed up the process of rapport building, the connection will be short lived if you don’t come from a place of genuine openness. You should have a sincere interest in the other person to achieve truly effective communication.

Find out what is important to them, ask questions and actively listen to their responses. Help them feel at ease and lead them into a relaxed state. If you want to create a real relationship, you must always act with good, ecological intentions.

To YOUR Continued Success,

Lisa Christiansen

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