Building Rapport in Business, with NLP

Jul 5, 2014 | Business, High Performance, Influence/Persuasion, Personal Change, Sales | 0 comments

Building Rapport in Business Settings

Anyone can actively build, deepen, and maintain stronger Rapport than they ever have in the past.  You can in fact use this skill to create more desirable results in business communication settings of any kind.  We know that building Rapport is not something that has to be left to chance:  we don’t “just click with some people and just don’t with others”.  A great deal can be done to change that.  It’s only true if you believe that you’re incapable of improving.

Instead, know that Rapport can be created where it does not yet exist.  You can magnify, strengthen, and harness rapport — for everyone’s benefit.

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

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!

Move past overly simplified assumptions about Building Rapport in Business.

Rapport is about being in tune with people.  If two people are arguing at top volume, that’s one form of being in rapport.  Are they both stubbornly refusing to say anything, both with arms crossed?  They’re also 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.

True, mirroring skills are important, because mirroring can be experienced as mocking.  However, its essential to learn how to move past basic mirroring and matching, into cross-mirroring and cross-matching.  This skill requires some real nuances, behavioral demonstrations, and many hours of practice.  Cross-mirroring/matching is next to impossible for other people to notice or identify, so they won’t ever feel like you’re mocking or manipulating them.  Yet you can still achieve far deeper rapport, as a result.

People who want to get really good at building rapport also need to develop additional skills, or they won’t notice when or why they fail.   They need sufficient sensory awareness skills for both self and other people.  They also need behavioral flexibility to be able to shift behavior and communication to more closely match others, indirectly.  In Business settings, this lets us attract and keep clients or customers more effectively.  It helps make business partners feel warmer around us, and invites employees to feel more connected with us and our vision.  Rapport ought to be an automatic effort by all of us.

Many people falsely think Rapport = Mirroring or Pacing.

Some would describe building rapport as what happens with 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.  It’s not just about creating rapport… sometimes you may need to be able to disrupt a connection without the other person feeling any disconnection.  This is valuable for optimally ending conversations, or putting an end to an interview, or a sales presentation.   For example, you may need to end a phone call abruptly without the other party feeling upset about it.  Or you could be having a conversation with one person at a trade-show, and be interrupted and called in to another conversation.

It’s possible to go even further in seemingly impossible circumstances.  An NLP Practitioner could enable rapport indirectly (or unconsciously) between other parties who frequently argue.  A skilled NLP trainee could gain rapport between multiple members of a committee.  You could even get an entire audience to breathe all 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 indirectly building rapport could be useful for sales contexts where a couple comes in, and can’t make up their mind?  What if you could get both partners back into rapport with each other, and with you, enabling a successful closing?  I’ve done this countless times, and you can too.

Engage all of your Senses

It’s exceptionally valuable to spend days learning rapport skills in every major sensory modality.  This ensures 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 (e.g., conferences/trade-shows), which uses Kinesthetic and Visual.  You’ll also want to be able to get rapport over the phone.  Phone rapport is mostly auditory but starts with kinesthetic for you, and ends with kinesthetic for both you and the other person.   You see?  Rapport is far more than just mirroring.

Building Rapport with just a Belief?

Finally, I’ll share a story with you about a 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, though we both shifted towards each other.  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.

I was teaching KE when we met, which is all about identifying and working with beliefs and belief systems.  There was one moment in the course where I had discovered we shared an unusual belief about sales:  “Once a buyer has been led to feel passionately about a product/service, then no closing techniques are ever needed.”  Anyone who believes passionately in what they’re selling, and enjoys sharing that passion with others inspirationally, will never need pressure sales tactics.

Once we both realized we both firmly held these beliefs, our rapport was set in concrete.  We weren’t aware of any mirroring between us, except mirroring these beliefs.  We did continue to disagree on some things, but our disagreements paled in comparison to our shared beliefs.  I don’t know if he knew it, but later on, even during disagreements, we were increasingly mirroring posture and voice rates.

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

If you’re interested in learning the skills for building rapport in business to the level I’ve described, feel free to connect with me.  Call my office at 813-991-8888, or contact us through the site.


author: Jonathan Altfeld