Building and maintaining rapport is the single most important skill in successful communication. The quality of the communication is dependent upon the degree of rapport between the participants. Communication can flow easily when two people are in rapport, especially when their nonverbal communication as well as their words are matching each other.
Inflection and tonality of voice, body posture and gestures are often more important to the communication than the specific words used. The degree of rapport depends how well these non verbal elements resonate between the participants in the communication.
The more rapport, the deeper and more significant can be the communication. While little rapport is necessary to exchange information about the weather or to get directions to the bus station, deeper rapport makes it possible for the client to more fully trust the practitioner and your communication.
Rapport building and rapport breaking behaviors happen all the time, ordinarily at an unconscious level. Your most vital skill as an coach is to be flexible enough to consciously modify your own behaviors to achieve better rapport, and therefore deeper communication with the client.
A way to consciously deepen rapport is to match the client's behaviors, with respect to your own internal congruency, and with slightly less emphasis than they use. The following nonverbal behaviors are the easiest to modify consciously.
Posture & Gestures
* Head height
* Mirroring and crossover mirroring of gestures
* Legs and arms - crossed/uncrossed
* Moving toward, moving away
* Use the same words as client
* Repeat whole phrases using the same words and syntax
* Pace client's breathing (in and out)
* Pace your words to client's breath
The essential ingredient in establishing and maintaining rapport is acceptance. Accepting what the other person is saying or experiencing is telling them on an unconscious level that you like them, or are like them. It is this quality of likeness that constitutes the basis of trust and empathy.
Rapport is a felt sense. When it is established, you will notice a feeling of ease and trust. Continue to access and monitor this feeling in yourself throughout the coaching session.
Once rapport is established, it can be broken. Even in the longest, and best relationships, the strength of rapport flows high and low. Our attention shifts smoothly to reestablishing rapport when a low is experienced. If it does happen that you lose rapport, you can quickly establish it by again matching behaviors until you reexperience that sense of ease and trust.