How to Build Rapport using NLP

If the relationship between the NLP coach or counselor and the client is not strong, if rapport is not established, effective counseling or coaching is less likely to occur.

Building rapport with clients
Clients can be distrusting and unwilling to commit to counseling; some more than others. While it is true that creating the client-counselor relationship can be challenging; this relationship is critical to future success. Such a relationship occurs naturally when people share common interests and mannerisms. These connections can be enhanced by understanding eye-accessing patterns and predicate phrases.

Eye accessing clues and predicate phrases
Accessing clues typically refer to eye movement and indicate the sensory representational system a person uses to acquire information. In other words, we are talking about how a human mind processes and stores information. The primary representational systems are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. If a person’s primary representational system is visual, a phrase like “I see what you mean” tends to make him feel heard. Similarly, when a person’s primary representational system is auditory, a phrase like “I hear what you say” tends to make her feel understood. Voice tone, breathing patterns, and posture also provide cues.

Visual, auditory, kinesthetic and auditory words are known as predicate phrases. Predicate phrases can offer hints to a person’s preferred representational system. Comments such as “I pictured something different” or “his words didn’t sound very encouraging” provide information. When these eye accessing and verbal cues are observed and duplicated, a subconscious message is conveyed that “we” are similar. In addition to connecting with a person’s primary representational system, rapport can be built in other ways such as matching and mirroring.

Matching and Mirroring
According to NLP, when people are similar to each other, they are more apt to like each other. So, matching and mirroring can be an effective tool in building rapport. Matching is doing exactly what another person does. Mirroring is doing it in reverse.

Five ways to match or mirror are as follows:
1. Physical actions – If the person crosses his or her legs, then, cross your legs.
2. Speaking tone, volume, and tempo – If a person speaks softly and quickly; then, speak softly and quickly.
3. Breathing – Matching another person’s breathing allows someone to create an internal experience of what the person is feeling.
4. Chunk size – If a person discusses specific details or is vague, do the same.
5. Common experience – A common interest tends to create a feeling of closeness.

Very reluctantly, Jennifer made an appointment to see me, an NLP Practioner, because none of the other counselors understood her problems. She doesn’t really think I can help, but a friend was pleased with the results of our sessions and wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, Jennifer acquiesced; however, she obviously didn’t want to be here and had little confidence in my ability to help end her years’ long problematic binging. Building rapport quickly was essential.

I began by asking questions such as:
a) what were the pros and cons of working with the other therapists?
b) What goals would she like to pursue with me?
c) What could each of us do to make this experience more successful and different from the others?

I listened to Jennifer’s predicate phrases during the discussion. The predicate phrases helped me determine her primary processing system.  She said “my friend told me you were very good” and “other therapists didn’t understand my problems.”

I observed her eye movements to gain additional information. During the discussion her eyes moved from left (AR) to right (AC). She also looked down and to her left which suggested she was talking to herself in her own voice (AD). Clearly, her primary representational system was auditory.  I used phrases like “having sound judgment” and “being in tune with her feelings.” My goal was to talk to her in ways that made her feel as if she were heard.

If Jennifer had been a visual person, she might have made statements like “I saw my mother as being controlling” or “I saw no solution to my problem.  Her eye cues would be up and to the left and right. Given that information, questions, I might ask include “In hindsight what would you have liked other therapists to do?”, “From your perspective, did it seem as if other counselors were uncaring?” or “What is your vision of the ideal counselor?”

Jennifer would have looked down and to her right and made statements like “I feel as if no one understands” or “this problem feels unsurmountable” if her primary representational system was  kinesthetic.

Rapport could also be built by matching Jennifer: a) if she talked softly and slowly, I would do the same,  b) if she were detailed about her story; I would ask for additional details or c) if she mentioned loving a certain food, I would talk about restaurants or compare recipes.

You will know rapport is established:
• By watching how she reacts to you and what you are saying.
• By pacing and leading – when she is speaking very quickly, do the same to begin with; then slow   down; when she follows your lead, you can ascertain rapport has been established.

Once the relationship has been established, addressing Jennifer’s presenting problem can begin. However, it may be that she will drift away during sessions and a return to rapport building will be necessary.