How to Build Rapport with Clients So They Feel Safe & Trust You
“I feel so comfortable with her. She really gets me.” “I just met her, but it feels like we’re old friends already.” Have you ever felt this way about someone? Maybe it was with a coach, therapist or mentor? They instantly put you at ease and you’re sharing things you never thought you would with a relative stranger. How do they do it? This skill is called building rapport. You can learn to build rapport with clients (or anyone else!) by mastering the NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) techniques mentioned below. They’re easy, but they do take practice.
If you truly care about people — you’re not trying to manipulate them through a technique — you can use this skill to connect with them on a deeply meaningful level. And once you understand how it works, you’ll see how it improves all of your conversations and interactions.
Building rapport involves three main stages – mirroring, pacing and leading. Rapport helps to build trust and effective communication with others. Remember, we communicate through body language, voice tonality and actual words. So, let’s take these stages one at a time and imagine how you can help a client who is upset. Then you’ll be able to apply these exact same skills to every situation in life.
Mirroring: Start with deep awareness of your client’s body movements and positions, her facial expression and tone of voice. As you identify each one, match or mirror the same in your own behavior subtly.
If she’s slumping down in her seat and looking at the floor, do the same. When she’s speaking slowly with short sentences, do the same. If she’s breathing quickly, do the same. If her arms are crossed defensively or she’s tapping her foot, do the same.
Ask non-threatening questions and try to find some common ground. Notice the way she speaks – the type of words she uses and the speed and tone of voice. Mirror them back to her. If you’re careful, she won’t feel like you’re mocking her. You’ll visibly see her start to relax as she feels the rapport building. This harmony and rapport will put her at ease.
Pacing: Now, you can slightly deepen and slow your breathing. Lower the tone of your voice. Uncross your arms and sit up straighter. You’ll see her start to mirror your new behavior. You can now consciously start pacing a more positive body position. You’ll soon see that she unconsciously notices the shift in your body position and when she follows every time, you can begin leading her to a more positive state.
Leading: Gradually and discreetly change your body posture to a more relaxed but positive state. Lift your head and increase eye contact and start smiling. Start speaking with more energy and volume, but don’t overdo it or be too abrupt, so you don’t startle her. You’ll know you’ve built a solid rapport when she relaxes and starts smiling slightly or she speaks with more animation.
To build rapport with clients, you need keen observation, suspending judgment and intentionally leading to a more positive state of mind.
You can improve these skills by practicing them at every opportunity and being aware of their effect. Once you know how to build rapport with someone, you can use it to influence and motivate them, making it easier to get to know them and enjoy their company.
To build rapport with clients, you must first be very familiar with your own emotions, thoughts, body sensations, and reactions. Mindfulness is an invaluable skill for deepening this self-knowledge. And when you add other skills like deep listening, you’ll be able to connect with people on a much deeper, more meaningful and more satisfying level.
I also invite you to learn how Somatic Coaching can help you tune into what your body is telling you and how you can give it exactly what it needs, so you, in turn, can help your coaching clients achieve their fullest potential as well. And if somatic coaching is something you want to explore, take advantage of a 30-minute complimentary consultation so we can explore a coaching partnership.