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Building rapport is a core skill in NLP. There are no resistant clients only resistant practitioners

The skill of building Rapport

“There is no such thing as a resistant client. There is only a lack of rapport,” I said.

As I stood in front of the Drug Action team, one man appeared unconvinced. He said, “I work with young offenders. One young man comes to his meeting each week. He pulls his baseball cap over his eyes. He folds his arms. He doesn’t say a word. I have done everything but dance on the table to talk to him. What do you suggest I do?”

I said, “Get yourself a baseball cap.”

He looked almost pained, and said “Nooo”

“Either that or dance on the table.”

He looked at me for a moment, and then said, “Ok, baseball cap it is”

Later, when we followed up, he told me, “I was wearing the cap when he came in. He did what he always did. Cap over the eyes, arms folded. I did the same. I remember thinking, “He is going to hit me.” Time slowed down. After what seemed an eternity the young man said, “What’s up?” That was my way in. We started speaking.”

Understanding is a Gift

What is rapport? It’s a French word with Latin roots. It means, “To bring back.”

For our use, let’s rephrase. “To give someone the gift of understanding by entering into their world.” Stephen Covey expressed it well in ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People.’ He said, “Seek to understand before being understood.”

You have heard the saying that “People like people who are like themselves.” We make connections when we reflect back to someone else part of their world view. We can do this though body movement, voice tone, or language.

The rapport stuff is natural. It’s almost instinctive. So, why should we spend time in NLP mastering rapport? Because natural rapport usually happens when we run into people like us. Most people are not like us.

Rapport – the Natural Ability to Connect with Others

MBTI, the Myers-Briggs people, conducted a study in the USA. They determined that seven out of every ten people were customers. Seven out of every ten went into a store to buy something. These were often high-priced items like washing machines, TVs, or cookers. Seven out of each ten people intended to purchase. Only two did.

What was going on?

They discovered that salespeople only sold to customers who were like them.

Were those other customers lost to the store? No. All it took was teaching salespeople to be flexible in their behavior. Could a flexible salesperson connect with just one more customer? Yes. And, when that third customer bought, sales went from two out of ten to three out of ten. Store sales increased by 50 percent.

So, we find rapport between us and people most like us is natural. It’s easy. But it takes effort to find rapport with people not like us.

When Getting Along is Not Natural, Try the Barrister’s Technique

Is there is a coworker you need to connect with, but end up arguing with?

A barrister will never go into a courtroom without first arguing his opponent’s case. First he must understand every detail of the other person’s case. Then he can put together a strong defense.

Can you explain your coworker’s situation better than she can?

Arrange a meeting with your coworker. Sit as she does. Check to make sure you have understood her point of view. If you’ve done a good job, she will then be more likely to hear you point. Now, put your point of view forward.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

How does wearing a baseball cap help first to understand? It’s through mimicry. It’s a non-verbal statement of respect – “I respect you so much that I want to become like you.”

When your behavior becomes this flexible you’ll find the obvious. There are no resistant clients. There is only lack of rapport.

Do you have more questions about rapport? Other NLP questions? Post them below and I will be happy to answer them.

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Article written by John Cassidy-Rice