Ever get this feeling?
You meet someone for the first time and there is a harmonious understanding. You hit it off instantly without having to make effort.
You feel like you’ve found your match. Your conversations flow easily. The rapport between the two of you is smooth as cake.
How good does that feel?
And then there are times when we are not so lucky. Staying on the same page as the other person feels like a lot of effort.
But here’s the thing – rapport can be built especially when you meet new people (or clients). You can find a common ground, ask engaging questions, and be interested and empathetic.
In coaching terms, rapport is defined as the time when your words become your client’s thoughts.
Your desired outcome during a session is to build rapport with the client at any moment in time. You can start by “matching” their behaviours.
The basis of rapport is that when people share similarities (are like each other), they like each other. And when you like someone, you are willing to assist them.
38% of all communication is tone of your voice, 55% is physiology. So a lot of it happens outside of our conscious effort to communicate with words. A huge opportunity therefore exists for communication outside of normal channels – and that’s where rapport comes into picture.
To benefit from coaching, your clients need to be 100% ready and open to feedback. Having a solid rapport makes this process seamless.
How to Build Rapport with Your Clients: 6 Steps that Work
There are four different representational systems: Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic, Auditory-Digital.
Depending on what your client’s preferred modality, you’ll match them by pacing and then leading.
For example, if you’re meeting someone who is highly visual, you sit up, and breathe from the top of your lungs. You want to excited and pace up. Whereas if you meet someone who is auditory, you’d slow down a bit and modulate your voice more to really listen.
You actually copy their physical movements, posture, facial expressions, eye blinking and hand gestures. This makes them unconsciously think: “They are just like me!”
You match the tone, tempo, timbre and volume as well as any words they use a lot. If they use the word “literally” a lot, say it back to them by using it in your sentences.
You can pace your client’s breathing by breathing in and out at the same time they do. By pacing them this way enough number of times you gently lead them into a different representational system (once a rapport is established).
If your client deals with big pictures, they won’t like going into details with you. You pace them by using big-picture ideas and then lead them into detail-oriented conversation, should that be necessary.
Same applies to someone who’s at the other end of the spectrum and deals with details – if you only provide them with the big picture, they may not have enough information to deal with and feel out of sync during the session.
So it’s worthwhile to pay attention to their chunk size and match it.
Share common experiences, background, beliefs, values and ideas where appropriate.
It’s easy to get lost in details and focus too much on the need to establish rapport. Be wary of doing that.
Be fully present to them. The more you feel the need to match and mirror them, the less you’re present. You’re thinking about the idea of rapport instead of being in rapport with them.
Also, be subtle when matching and mirroring other people. That said, most people are in a trance while talking anyway, so this may not always be necessary because they may not notice you at all.
Imagine coaching someone who is from a different culture, doesn’t speak fluent English, and has completely different behavioural traits.
All of that doesn’t matter – because if you build rapport with them, you will still be able to coach them effectively.
When you’re in rapport with another individual, you can feel it physiologically. It occurs in the area of the legs and chest and you could say it feels like nervousness or anticipation.
You can also feel the colour of your own face change and a warm feeling rise up the neck, which is then matched by your client. This means you’ve established rapport by successfully pacing (which is 5 to 10 minutes) and then leading.
Go ahead and practise these rapport-building with your clients today.
It’s one of the ingredients that make coaching work.
Got more tips to build rapport with clients? Share with us in the comments below!