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Rapport : The Secret Sauce

Updated on February 22, 2016

Rapport is to communication as oil is to moving automobile engine parts.

If your automobile engine is moving efficiently then you’re more likely to access its full power! The same can be said of interpersonal communications.

From a technical point of view, rapport is when your relationship or communication is marked by harmony, being in accord or having an affinity toward a common point of view.

In a world full of sound bites and 30 second answers the person who establishes rapport with others definitely sets themselves apart from the crowd.

The Value of Rapport

It could be argued that creating value is a primary objective of successful communication skills. For instance, let’s say you and your spouse had been planning a trip during the last year to enjoy a wonderful yet expensive milestone anniversary vacation getaway.

Three weeks before your departure date, a large bonus you were counting on at work (which would pay for the entire trip) is eliminated. What do you do?

Well amongst other things, you’ll need to have that conversation about why it’s now no longer a good idea to go on the trip. When you understand how to get into rapport it the discussion a whole lot easier.

As you communicate with rapport it raises the level of value of your interaction in a way that helps present saving money and reducing debt ( even though you could charge it ) as the best choice rather than charging it and going on a romantic celebration anyway.

In addition it puts both of you in an atmosphere where you can come up with an alternative celebration of your important anniversary and allow you to end up having a wonderful time without a major disagreement.

Getting into Rapport

As earlier mentioned, there is great benefit in being in rapport when speaking with others.

In a certain sense, rapport is really all about finding a common ground by which agreement flows naturally.

Take a moment and think about the last time you had an unexpected and refreshingly wonderful conversation. Didn’t it seem to flow so smooth and effortlessly?

If so, then most likely you were in rapport with the other person. I bet you didn’t strategize in order to accomplish but would love to understand how to be able to do it on purpose in the future.

The key to getting into a state of Rapport with someone is by “ being “ like them. You see, we humans typically feel most comfortable with people who seem like us.

Of course, the premise of this is perception since people are uniquely different in their own way. When you had that amazing conversation, somehow you allowed yourself and the other person to feel good about being in dialogue with you.

The perception of being similar just happened and the result was a space that yielded an exceptional experience.

Interestingly, being in rapport doesn’t mean that both sides will have the same opinion initially but it does present the type of platform where more likely consensus can be realized.

The Mechanics of Rapport

As you focus on achieving rapport, think of yourself as being a mirror. Another way to describe this is by trying to “ reflect ” something about the other person as they speak to you.

Are they sitting up straight, well then, make sure you do. Does she have her legs crossed, if so, you do the same if possible? Now it’s important to be very genuine and sincere as you attempt these movements.

Do you notice the rate of speed at which they are speaking. If you typically speak very slow and deliberate, does this “ match “ the interviewers pace as he questions you?

This technique is called mirroring and it is quite effective in producing a feeling of “ being at ease “ that helps set the stage for rapport with the person. In reality the key to being successful in this is not really about mechanical techniques as much as sincerity, motive and practice. By making attempts at these methods in small and non essential situations you begin to have the confidence to activate them at more critical times

Keep in mind if you are overtly flagrant and self-serving in your efforts they will be met with utter failure at best and offense and resentment at worst.

Be sure to understand that building rapport is not about manipulation or control but about cooperation and harmony.

A Deeper Level of Rapport

Beyond the basic elements of mirroring and general imitating lies the space called Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Negro-Linguistic Programming or NLP is an advance set of skills that help establish rapport, which is based on a scientific and psychological approach. The primary focus is on understanding how people naturally absorb, retain and utilize information.

More specifically, it gives greater insight into how this applies to interpersonal communications.

One major key behind NLP is being able to recognize the best communication style to use when establishing rapport with others.

People have natural or preferred ways in which they choose to engage. Once we have identified these, we can make sure we are not at odds with them.

The primary ways humans relate are visual, auditory, kinesthetic or feeling paradigms.


This describes the individual that relates or processes information preferably by visual input.

For instance, If you are describing a movie in which you’d like to take girlfriend to see, then speaking about it in terms that help “ picture “ scenery and special effect graphics of the plot and characters will more likely help to get the her excited about going.

Show a preview trailer (if possible) or encouraging her to do so on her own. This will present the topic in the flavor most suited for her.

Another way to view this is how the simple choice of “ visuals “ begin to better establish rapport with your boss as you sit down to " talk " about getting a raise. You may have a brief chart to assist him in " seeing " what you want what and are trying to tell him.


The person whose primary communication style is auditory uses sound and hearing as their favorite format. Say for example you are attempting to help a friend study for their second attempt at passing driver’s license exam.

Instead of approaching the conversation with your own preference in learning the information, when you know theirs is auditory you simply switch to that preference.

Rather than coaching in a way that may lead to frustration, you would read practice questions aloud and suggest perhaps that they be speaken back. You could go on to express a plan for the correct answers to be recorded by either party and then listening to several times in order to study!

By offering help in this way you are aligning yourself more effectively and are more able to connect with them.


Kinesthetic type people want to first process information by their sense of touch or personal interaction.

For example, Let’s say your goal is to be in rapport with your kinesthetic oriented son as you teach him how to throw a football.

Rather than watching a ESPN training video and talking about the mechanics of the movements grab a football and play catch on a regular basis.

As you do that you’re verbal conversation or even pause and discussion of a great teaching DVD will have much more impact.

Later, when you want to take him to a game, and talk about what the quarterback is doing as he throws a touchdown, he’ll more appreciate the game time experience in light of the hands on experience!

Its very important in all of this to keep in mind that people are multi-dimensional and are not locked into one learning style. We have a primary preference but usually function with all three.

In other words the effort to reach people with rapport is an art as much as a science rather than any formula.

The essential thing to remember is motive and purpose.

Make sure yours is good and you’ll do just fine in making random rapport happen on a more regular and consistent basis.



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