NLP Business Rapport Skills

NLP has enabled people just like you to discover that actively building, deepening, and maintaining Rapport creates stronger and more desirable results in communication settings of any kind.  We know that Rapport is not something that has to be left to chance, and it is utterly untrue that we click with some people and just don't click with others, and that nothing can be done about that.  Instead, Rapport can be created where it does not yet exist.  It can be magnified, strengthened, and harnessed -- for everyone's benefit.

Since its widespread dissemination into the self-improvement marketplace, the idea of Rapport is everywhere now.   Virtually every executive knows about mirroring, for example.  Mirror neuron research has finally proven what NLP has been saying for decades.  

Unfortunately, thanks to self-improvement "fast-food-style" sound-bytes, many people now think of Rapport as equivalent to mirroring, or equivalent to feeling warm & fuzzy.  While these are sometimes the case, they're truly not the case in all situations, and  things get really interesting when you move far past these simple assumptions and sound bytes about Rapport, and begin exploring what's possible. 

Rapport is about being in tune with people, and if two people are arguing at top volume, that's one form of being in rapport.  If both people are stubbornly refusing to say anything, both with arms crossed, they're in rapport.  If two people are both too shy to say anything to each other, even if they're not mirroring, they're very much in rapport.

Also, although mirroring skills are important, because mirroring can be experienced as mocking, nowadays its essential to learn how to move past basic mirroring and matching, into cross-mirroring and cross-matching, which requires some real nuances, behavioral demonstrations, and many hours of practice.  This is next to impossible for other people to identify, so they won't ever feel like you're mocking or manipulating them.  Yet it produces the same desirable result in terms of deeper rapport (presumably -- and this is just conjecture -- firing off the same mirror neurons, without mirror-image behavior).

People who are really good at rapport skills will need to have developed enough sensory awareness skills and behavioral flexibility to shift their behavior and communication to more closely match aspects of other people's behavior and communication, indirectly (ideally, via cross-mirroring and cross-matching).  As it pertains to Small Business, this lets us attract and keep clients or customers more effectively, make business partners feel more warmth around us, invite employees to feel more connected with us and our vision, and more.  Rapport ought to be an automatic effort by all of us.

Some would describe rapport as pacing (or mirroring), but pacing is just one specific skill.  Leading is another skill.  Temporarily breaking rapport is yet another.

Rapport is the overall ability to manage and deepen connections, including the ability to be able to disconnect a connection temporarily without the other person feeling like there's any disconnection.  This is valuable for optimally ending conversations, or putting an end to an interview, or a sales presentation.   For example, you may get interrupted during an important call, and need to end the call in a way where the other party can feel perfectly fine about it.  Or you could be having a conversation with one potential prospect at a trade-show, and be called in to another conversation by a manager or supervisor.

It's possible to go even further than this to achieve success in circumstances most would describe as difficult to impossible, e.g., for an NLP Practitioner to enable rapport indirectly (or unconsciously) between other parties who frequently argue.  Or for a skilled NLP artist to gain rapport between multiple members of a committee.  Even to get an entire audience to breathe all together at the same rate, indirectly.  These are pretty easy results for skilled NLP Practitioners – truly using basic skills -- if they were trained well to begin with.  

Do you think these sorts of indirect rapport skills could be useful for situations like a sales context where a couple comes into your store or business and can't make up their mind?  What if you could get both members of a couple back in rapport with each other, and with you, enabling you to lead the sale nearer to a successful closing.  I've done this countless times, and you can too.

It's also exceptionally valuable to spend days learning rapport skills in every major sensory modality, so you're not limited to the simplest rules of visual mirroring.  You'll want to be able to get rapport nonverbally from across a room (essential for conferences and trade-shows), which uses Kinesthetic and Visual.  You'll want to be able to get rapport over the phone, which is mostly auditory but has a kinesthetic starting point for you, and a kinesthetic ending for both you and the other person.  You see?  Rapport is far more than just mirroring.

Rapport with just a Belief?

Finally, I'll share a story with you about a Knowledge Engineering (KE) student with whom I initially shared very little “obvious” rapport.  Our ages and life circumstances were very different when I first met him.  His preferred rate of speech and my own, were very different (I shifted mine more towards his, than he shifted his towards mine).  And we found we respectfully disagreed about a number of things.  We got along fine, and he was a good student and enjoyed the material, even though we didn't agree on everything.

Because I was teaching KE (which is all about identifying and working with beliefs and belief systems), however, there was one moment in the course where I had discovered we shared an unusual belief about sales:  “That once a buyer has been led to feel passionately about a product or service, then no closing techniques are ever needed.”  For someone who believes passionately in what they're selling, and enjoys sharing that passion with others in an inspirational way, pressure sales tactics become utterly unnecessary.

Once we both knew the other of us held these related beliefs as deeply accurate, our rapport for the rest of the course was set in concrete.  We weren't aware of mirroring much of anything around that time -- except some important beliefs we both shared.  And we did continue to disagree on things, but the disagreements paled in comparison to knowing about our mirrored beliefs.  And I don't know if he knew it, but even later on when we disagreed on things, we were mirroring each other's posture more, and voice rate.

I hope this expands your beliefs about what rapport is, and how many things you can mirror!

If you're interested in achieving the levels of rapport-building I've been talking about, feel free to connect with me.  Call my office at 813-991-8888, or contact us through the site.


author: Jonathan Altfeld