“The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy.  Sam Levenson

To gain rapport with someone, you have to first get onto their wavelength. You have to tune in to the person. Who they are, what are their needs right now, and how you can best understand these, to better manage the person? Where one has rapport with someone, the results and compliance from them is often remarkable.

Often one meets someone for the first time, and a genuine liking and respect are there from the first meeting. At other times, the exact opposite is true. Why the difference? In the first case, we were able to develop rapport quickly and easily, and in the second case, it was lacking. Empathy is one of the keys to gaining that rapport. Step into the shoes of the other person, and you are very likely to gain rapport and get the best from others.


The value of rapport.

In choosing the title for this article, I was determined to convey to you, the reader, the absolute importance and value of this skill called rapport. Hence the title, “The magic of rapport.” It is a virtual magic wand, to open the doors to clearer and more rewarding communication. If you are in rapport with another person you can sell them, convince them, persuade them, help them or achieve any other communication outcome that you may have. Without rapport, it is like swimming against a very strong tide.

We have all had the experience of walking into a room and meeting a person, and feeling that immediate bond with the person. That feeling of liking them, and feeling that you’ve known them for years. On the other hand we sometimes meet people and work with them and deal with them for literally months on end, and still don’t like them, or have any bond with them. Why is this? And the secret is rapport.



Let’s try to define rapport. Firstly, although it is a feeling, it is also a skill. It is a skill that can be learned and developed. Rapport is a skill that has been identified with great leaders and communicators in our times and for generations back to our first records of man. It is incredibly powerful as you are about to find out. After learning these skills try the following little exercise to check the power of this skill.

The next time you are in an aeroplane, train or bus, start talking with the person next to you. As you do, use the techniques you have learned to get into rapport with that person, and see what happens. Don’t be too surprised if the person tells you their whole life history, without even knowing you! This is the magic of rapport.

Rapport is defined as an attitude of harmony, accord, conformity and affinity. When another person feels that you are in harmony with them, that you are seeing things the way they are and that there is a sense of commonality, then you have rapport. This was summed up so nicely in a sales training book which I once read which said: “To sell John Smith what John Smith wants, see John Smith through John Smith’s eyes.”



One ingredient that has to be present to develop rapport with another person is trust. If, for what ever reason the trust bond is broken, it is not possible to have rapport. For a state of rapport to exist between people, they have to feel safe with each other. Safe to share, to feel and to communicate, without fear of ridicule or of being put down. This can only be achieved in an environment of trust.

Now it’s not important how long you’ve known someone to have trust. This can be gained or in fact lost in seconds. It depends on how trustworthy the other person believes you are, and this will be picked up both verbally and non-verbally. What you say is the more obvious side of the coin, but your body language is perhaps the more important side. Let’s have a look at how we go about getting into rapport.


Getting rapport.

There are many non-verbal ways that rapport can be developed. They all fall under a big heading called postural echo or sympathetic mimicry. The only problem that I have with both of those terms is their seeming complexity. They are simply fancy terms for mirroring. Mirroring the behaviour that is being presented to you.

When you copy the overall gestures of the person that you are with, they start to get the feeling that there is something about you that they like. You are echoing the gestures of the other person, so that they get the feeling that they are virtually looking into a mirror. As they see their own behaviours being presented back to them, they develop a sympathy or a rapport with you, the person who is acting as their “mirror.” There are many different behaviours that we can mirror, but first we need to know how to match and lead.


Matching and leading.

To gain rapport, we have seen that we need to mirror or match the behaviours of the other person. But this isn’t enough. We want to be able to lead the other person across to our way of thinking. By the way if this sounds terribly manipulative, it’s not. People by their very nature will not do things that go against their own morals, beliefs and values. Just because you have rapport with someone, will not allow you to manipulate or abuse them against their will. It will, however, help you to work with them to move towards mutually beneficial outcomes. To get the best from them.

Once we have matched the other person’s behaviours, we then need to start to lead them. This is done by first matching the other person twice, then make we make an attempt to lead them. If this doesn’t work the first time, and it probably won’t, then you go back to match, match then lead. By the third or fourth time that you’ve done this process of match, match, lead, the other person will be subconsciously following your gestures. At this stage you have rapport, and can work together with the person to reach your desired outcomes.


Matching gestures.

Here we are referring to the large body gestures of the other person. If they have their legs crossed then cross your legs. If they are sitting forward, lean in towards them. If you watch two people from a distance, who are really in tune with one another, you’ll notice that as the one moves to change position, a few seconds later the other unconsciously moves into the same gesture cluster as his partner. They can be seen to be in tune. All we need to do is follow suit.


It really happened…

Vusi was so taken with the idea of matching and mirroring to gain rapport which he learned at a seminar, that he decided to become expert at it. It took about three months, but he reached a point, where he realised that he wasn’t actually TRYING to do it any longer, but was just doing it naturally. He was also amazed at how well he was getting along with everyone he encountered. You see, he had gained rapport to the extent that it had become a natural life skill.


Not too fast.

When matching these large body gestures, it is vital not to be too quick. If you copy the gestures within a second or two of the person moving, it will look contrived and maybe even a bit like mockery. Ideally you should follow about 5 to 8 seconds after the person has adopted a new gesture. By being too quick you may lose rapport rather than develop it.


Negative clusters.

If a person is presenting you with a negative gesture cluster, like crossed arms, crossed legs, leaning back and frowning, do you still mirror? Yes! Meet the person in his model of the world. Start off by matching what you’re given. Then, after doing this twice, you then change your positioning to a more positive cluster. (Remember – match, match, lead.) So for example you may now try unfolding your arms. Did the other person follow you? No? Fine, just match them again until such time as they start to match you. This is a very powerful way of breaking negative states within others.


Matching movements.

Often people have unconscious movements that they are totally unaware of. For example a tapping foot, a restless hand or perhaps a tapping finger. What you need to do now is to match their movement with a different one of your own. So typically, if they are tapping their foot, you could tap your finger. The key here is not so much matching the actual movement, but rather matching the tempo of the movement.

Exercise caution here not to copy any twitches or specific idiosyncrasies that may appear that you are mocking the other person. If they have a facial twitch or some other similar behaviour, it would be both insensitive and inappropriate to copy it.


Take it slow.

There’s a whole lot that has been presented to you here and it may at first seem intimidating. The best way to develop these matching and mirroring skills is to take them one at a time. Don’t try to learn to do them all simultaneously. It’s just too much. Take each one slowly, and practise each skill area for a few days.

Once you feel competent and comfortable with one, then add another, and another until you own them all. Practise on your spouse, your kids, your friends, the shopkeeper down the road your colleagues and your customers. We are communicating all the time anyway. We may as well use those opportunities to practise and perfect our skills.


Part 2 Coming Soon!


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