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First Published in Personal Success Magazine, January 1994

RAPPORT - The Magic Ingredient - Part 1
Penny Tompkins and James Lawley

"Rapport is the ability to enter someone else's world, to make him feel that you understand him, that you have a strong common bond. It's the ability to go fully from your map of the world to his map of the world. It's the essence of successful communication."
Anthony Robbins

"No one has ever listened to me before like you do." So said a young woman -- addicted to drugs, unemployed and about to get thrown out of her home. Do we have some magical gift that allows us to repeatedly get responses like this from our clients? No, we simply build such a deep level of rapport that people truly feel heard and experience a sense of security.

We have found this is a prerequisite for effective communication, whether in counselling, in our personal lives, in our professional lives ... anywhere, and with anyone.

By following the simple steps we give below, and will be giving in future issues, you too can enhance your communication skills dramatically. Then you will be able to improve the quality of your life, and the lives of those around you.


If you've been following the articles on NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) in the last few issues of Personal Success, you will remember that NLP began with the study of excellent communicators.

What is the difference that makes the difference in feeling comfortable and acknowledged by someone, even if they are disagreeing with what you say? How is it that some people you meet you instantly like -- while others you can't get away from fast enough? Why can you talk to some people for hours and it seems like minutes?


The answer to all of these questions is RAPPORT -- A foundation stone of NLP, and the most important process in any communication. When people are communicating in rapport they find it easy to be understood and believe their concerns are highly regarded by the other person. Rapport means responsiveness to what another is saying; not that you necessarily agree with what is being said. And when you are in rapport something magical happens. You and others feel listened to, and heard. At an unconscious level, there is a comfortable feeling of 'This person thinks like I do, I can relax.'

True rapport creates an atmosphere of mutual confidence and trust. If you are using rapport as a tactic to manipulate another to your way of thinking, at some level they instinctively know it and they will not respond positively. However, if you have mastered the art of rapport and your intention is to hear and be heard, to achieve win-win solutions or create genuine friendships, you will become a powerful and trusted communicator.

People are often naturally in rapport. Have you ever noticed how some couples in restaurants are so in tune with each other that their bodies move together as if dancing? Watch children playing, observe interactions at meetings, notice mates in the pub. See and hear how the effect of two people moving together produces positive results in their communication. Also notice how the quality of interaction changes to miscommunication when their physiology doesn't match and they are out of sync with one another.


So how can we consciously improve our own rapport skills? We can begin by learning a process called 'mirroring' -- which is learning to duplicate another's behaviours. Behaviours you can mirror include:
  • Body Posture
  • Hand Gestures
  • Facial Expressions
  • Weight Shifts
  • Breathing
  • Movement of Feet
  • Eye Movements
Mirroring is physically 'copying' the behaviours of another in a subtle manner. Try mirroring just one aspect of another person's behaviour while talking to them--perhaps their posture. When this is easy, gently include another piece, like their hand gestures. Gradually add another and another until you are mirroring without thinking about it. The more you practice, the easier it will become. You also will be rewarded with the same comfortable, positive response in YOURSELF that you are creating for another.


The more you practice, the more you will become aware of the different rhythms, gestures, breathing patterns that you and others have. It is fascinating to enter another person's "map of the world" by mirroring their behaviour. You can learn so much more about them this way.

Be sure to be subtle in mirroring when establishing rapport. If the other person is making grand, sweeping gestures, you may choose to make similar, but smaller, less obvious movements. In the beginning it may feel awkward. But the value in learning to achieve and maintain rapport is worth the time and effort it takes to become skilled in this area of communication.

And you might be surprised to discover that your 'intuition' will be enhanced as you become aware of behaviours and actions of which you were previously unaware.

Mirroring is something we automatically do when we're around people we feel comfortable with. To learn to mirror purposely in order to gain rapport enables us to enhance our communication with others and have the support of everyone we meet to help us achieve our outcomes and goals.

If you have the slightest doubt whether mirroring really works... test it. Pick three people with whom you want better communication and mirror them for just 10 minutes. Notice the difference it makes. We invite you to write in and tell us of your experience. And let us know if it's ok to publish your comments.

Next month in Personal Sucess we will continue with part 2 of Rapport - The Magic Ingrediant and in future issues other exciting aspects of NLP will be revealed. Practice these NLP tips and techniques and your 'personal success' will be guaranteed!

Penny Tompkins & James Lawley
Penny and James are supervising neurolinguistic psychotherapists – first registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy in 1993 – coaches in business, certified NLP trainers, and founders of The Developing Company.

They have provided consultancy to organisations as diverse as GlaxoSmithKline, Yale University Child Study Center, NASA Goddard Space Center and the Findhorn Spiritual Community in Northern Scotland.

Their book,
Metaphors in Mind
was the first comprehensive guide to Symbolic Modelling using the Clean Language of David Grove. An annotated training DVD, A Strange and Strong Sensation demonstrates their work in a live session. James has also written (with Marian Way) the first book dedicated to Clean Space: Insights in Space. Between them Penny and James have published over 200 articles and blogs freely available on their website:
Article Series
This article is part 3 of a 4 part series. Other articles in this series are shown below:
  1. What is NLP?
  2. Change Your Thinking - Change Your Life
  3. Rapport: The Magic Ingredient
  4. I See, Hear, and Feel What You Mean
 »  Home  »  NLP  »  Introductory NLP  »  Rapport: The Magic Ingredient
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