Everyone in this business knows that rapport is the bottom line IF you want to get the change the client is asking for. But we don’t always stay tuned into rapport throughout the course of a session – and THAT creates more problems than almost anything else.
Most of us define rapport as something that happens when two folks can relate to each other, connect, or feel safe; in other words, when you like each other. In the world of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), rapport is defined as your connection, or lack of it, with the unconscious mind – not whether the client likes you, or feels safe with you.
Your first job is to create rapport with the client’s unconscious mind – and then sustain it. Or, what I have found to be even more important, knowing when rapport gets broken and how to re-establish it on the spot!
How do you get an unconscious mind to feel safe with you? Not necessarily by being nice and kind, or looking and sounding understanding. The unconscious mind knows that you see it when you reflect back its own patterns.
We all easily relate to people we feel are the same as us. We assume because they are so similar, they can understand us and that creates a feeling of safety – as if we’re in the presence of a member of our own tribe.
NLP is widely known for teaching students to create rapport by mirroring their client’s body postures, movements, eye patterns, and language. But the key is knowing how to assess whether or not you succeeded in establishing rapport with the unconscious mind.
How do you do it? After mirroring and reflecting the client’s patterns for a period of time, you change the pattern and do something different, like pulling on your earlobe. If the client follows your lead and does the same within 30 seconds or so, the unconscious mind is with you. If not, you haven’t yet gotten the rapport you desire.
Seem a little far out? I thought so in the beginning of my training. Yet years and years of testing it out has proven it’s a pretty darn good indicator.
But I started talking about losing rapport in the middle of the session, usually quite obvious through the body, facial or breathing shifts, or changes in language, including voice tempo, volume, and tonality.
If you don’t notice these changes in behavior and KNOW WHAT IT MEANS, you may soon fall into the trap of trying to convince your client that he/she needs to understand what you’re saying.
When this happens, the lack of rapport deepens and the client can quickly become what is perceived as resistant, recalcitrant, or just difficult and insistent on clinging to their problem. From our point of view this only happens because rapport has been lost and your client has taken the lead in creating the direction of the conversation.
In other words, you are no longer driving the bus toward the goal. Your client is back in the driver’s seat and heading for the same old cul-de-sac with no way out.
How to remedy this? First, recognize you’re lost rapport. Second, recreate that thin, delicate, fragile thread of connection as quickly as you can. Think of rapport as a living reality that slips and slides in and out of your conversations with the stealth and ease of jungle cat.
Creating and sustaining rapport is actually quite an art and once mastered, everything flows much more easily – especially with the seemingly difficult and recalcitrant client.
To paraphrase Milton Erickson, “There is no such thing as resistance. Only clients who are more creative about keeping their problem than you are in helping them get rid of it.”
Usually, rapport gets broken when you’re trying to move the client too far outside their own map of reality. It’s like an old rubber band that gets stretched too far and then snaps. We’re quite attached to how we understand our problems and our lack of solutions.
Be aware that how you honor this very human fear of unknown possibilities can either make or break rapport and the ensuing success or failure of your client reaching their goal.
Hope this was helpful. Please feel free to leave your comments below. Meanwhile, hope you’re enjoying the advent of Spring.