Article from

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!

First Published in PERSONAL SUCCESS Magazine - February 1994
RAPPORT - The Magic Ingredient - Part 2"

Penny Tompkins and James Lawley

"You don't want want RAVING FANS!!!" Anthony Robbins

One of our students at City University had been trying to change jobs for a few years.  After learning some basic rapport skills such as mirroring and matching, and using these at interviews, he was at last  successful in landing a brilliant position in The City.  In practising her rapport skills in interview situations, another student  has become a television presenter.

Anthony Robbins is a master of rapport's matching and mirroring skills.  These skills have become so natural he does not even need to think about  'doing' them.  They are automatic.  And I believe he used these exact skills in his two-hour audience with Princess Diana on his recent visit to England!

"Personal Success" readers are also taking advantage of NLP tips and exercises and learning new and powerful communication skills, and are changing their lives for the better as a result.

What about you?  Are you ready to try something new and make those changes now?


In last month's issue, Rapport - The Magic Ingediant - Part 1, we introduced mirroring.  Mirroring is physically 'copying' the behaviour of another person, as if reflecting their movements back to them.  This is done with respect and subtlety.  At an unconscious level the person with whom you are communicating in this way feels acknowledged and appreciates your interest in them.  You are pacing that person's experience, and although they may be unaware of your mirroring, it will still have a profound effect.

Mirroring done with integrity and respect creates positive feelings and responses in you and others. Otherwise, mirroring becomes mimicry and has negative consequences. So as you learn the following additional rapport skills, remember the powerful effect you create must be based on honourable values and principles.


One basic difference between mirroring and matching is timing. While mirroring is simultaneous with the other person's movements, matching can sometimes have a 'time delay' factor to it. For example, if someone is gesturing while talking and making a point, you can be still and attending. When it is your turn to speak, you can make your comments and your point using the same, or similar gestures.

There are other types of matching:
    CROSS-OVER MATCHING is choosing to match one of your behaviours to a corresponding, but different movement of another.

    For example, if a person is blinking rapidly, you may cross-over match by discreetly tapping your finger at the same rate as they are blinking; or pace the rhythm of someone's speaking with slight nods of your head or your breathing.

    MISMATCHING is also a useful skill to master. Have you ever had someone go on and on and on when having a conversation with them...when you wonder if they will ever stop talking?

    You can break eye contact, turn your body at an angle to them, breathe faster or slower in contrast to their short, do anything to break rapport by mismatching. You will be surprised how quickly and easily the conversation will draw to a close.
You will find you hear and observe other people in more detail as you learn these basic rapport skills. Paying attention to others in this way is a process of building trust, and the more elegantly you mirror, match and cross-over match, the more your customers will turn into "raving fans."


When speaking to family members or business colleagues, find a specific behaviour or movement to focus on and match or cross-over match. You might select one behaviour per day to practice until you can build a whole repertoire of rapport skills.

You might:
    Use your hand movement to pace another persons breathing.
    Move your foot to pace another person's head movements.
    Tilt your shoulders slightly as the other person tilts their head.
    Lift a finger as the other person lifts an eye-brow.

And feel free to create your own cross-over matching techniques! Also remember to practice mismatching, but be sure to end the interaction in a state of rapport.


Some people feel they just have to match and mirror.

A young woman who matched and mirrored constantly was sitting across from a colleague who was tired of being mimicked. The colleague slid down in his chair, and of course she did the same. Then the colleague slid down even farther. She did the same. Finally, one slide too many, and the woman literally fell on the floor! Her colleague, conscious of his mirroring, remained in his chair.


Notice the difference these rapport skills will have in your life. Whether the context is flirting, interviewing, selling, or being granted an audience with a princess, you can make the choice to improve your communication skills using NLP. Next month we introduce you to "I See, Hear and Feel What You Mean: Representational Systems."


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:

All information on this web site (unless otherwise stated) is Copyright © 1997- Penny Tompkins and James Lawley of The Developing Company. All rights reserved. You may reproduce and disseminate any of our copyrighted information for personal use only providing the original source is clearly identified. If you wish to use the material for any other reason, please get in touch via our Contact Form