How to Connect With Anyone (NLP Rapport Building Techniques)

Genuine human connection. Something that all of us aspire to do with ease.

It’s a fundamental part of being a human and it’s hardwired into our DNA. Simply just being part of a group is one of the things that makes us human. So why is it so hard at times?

I’m Rae, a NLP breakthrough coach and today I’m going to discuss rapport and how to build it manually when it just doesn’t flow.

Rapport is connection. It’s feeling understood and being attuned with the people that you’re with. Everyone has been there – when you just click with someone and it feels effortless.

And it is absolutely essential to have if you want to positively influence someone.

Rapport is created by a feeling of commonality. People like people like them. This is backed up by a ton of research and can be for lots of different reasons. People also like people who are like they want to be. Which is all fun and games until you want to connect with someone who isn’t like you an doesn’t want to be like you.

Matching and Mirroring.

Have you ever noticed when a group of friends get together they start to behave and sound like each other? Even down to the detail of using similar language? That is unconscious matching and mirroring at it’s finest.

Matching and mirroring is pretty self explanatory – it’s the idea that when you “match” or “mirror” body language, expressions, voice patterns and tone and language you will find yourself in rapport with that person or group. It seems so so so basic but it is honestly hugely important.

And it makes total sense, when you’re exhibiting similar characteristics to another person, in some way, even if you have nothing in common, you are alike, which again is the basis of rapport.

Milton Erikson is the grandaddy of Hypnosis and one of the most successful psychiatrists in history.

His behaviours and linguistic patterns were modelled to create some of the core building blocks of NLP, and he was absolutely unparalleled at getting into rapport with clients. Tony Robbins has a great talk on rapport – and he talks about how Milton would match his clients energy to instantly get them to feel understood.

So you’ve got to that state of responsiveness, then what?

Pacing and Leading

Getting into rapport is known as pacing, and from there you can lead, steering the interaction in the way that you want it to go.

For me it’s a great tool to get people to relax. If someone is stressed, match their energy, pace them, get into rapport and then lead them back down to a calmer space. 

Pacing and leading is WAY more effective than you might think. There’s an old clip where Derren Brown paces a man’s actions in a coffee shop, he then starts leading and get’s the guy to unconsciously start following his actions. See (01:31).

The most very important question to ask of course: is it ethical?

Purposefully adapting your behavior in order to connect with someone? That absolutely depends on the purpose. What are you trying to achieve by connecting with them? Listen to your gut.

At the end of the day is the result of the interaction going to leave them better off? Of course this can be used in a manipulative way but if that’s the case it’s the intention that’s broken, not the process. 

I teach yoga and I find that after a really intensely unifying class, where everyone’s been moving in rapport together for an hour, at the end we take Savasana (which in layman’s terms is 5 mins of meditative stillness lying on your back). When it comes to waking the body back up – people next to one another that otherwise don’t know each other, will start to take the exact same movement as the exact same time, when I haven’t cued anything specific. And at this point they can’t see each other at all.

It’s really magical to see.

I think it’s really important to remember that this is something we do naturally, the most outstanding communicators do this with everyone at a level of unconscious competence without even thinking about it. And you’ll already do this too with the people that you’re close to. 

Think about when you meet a kid, you start communicating like a kid – “helloooooo ooooh I like your shoes, they’re so cool, wowwwww they light up”. Imagine how weird it would be if you talked to a kid like an adult.

We do this from birth, even babies match with their caregivers and will try to reestablish rapport if it gets lost. It’s a very very human process, and knowing how to do it, and how to do it right when it doesn’t happen organically will elevate your communication and relationship building incomprehensibly.

Actionable Report Building Strategies

Let’s put your matching and mirroring skills into practice.

1) Body language – it’s a myth that crossing your arms is closed off, if the other person is doing that, then you’d simply be getting on their level.

If you’re in a group a great thing to do to be in rapport with multiple people at the same time is by matching your top half with someone and bottom half someone else.

2) Gestures – if someone uses a particular gesture when they’re talking about something you can adapt it into your speech. Such an easy way to get someone to subconsciously feel like you get them.

3) Match the amount of eye contact that they give, again it’s another myth that you need to make constant eye contact with someone to be in rapport, if that person doesn’t like much eye contact it’ll freak them out.

4) Breath – this one is probably the most influential. If you breathe at the same pace and from the same place as someone you will feel what they’re feeling, and emotional states are the best and most powerful way to connect.

5) Facial expressions – think of it as a body language of the face, it’s so useful at becoming alike and getting into rapport, though interestingly expressions aren’t as tied to our emotional states as you might think. 

6) Voice – my god there is so much to say on this, volume, pace, pitch, speech patterns, everything. It’s especially important for any communication over the phone, you need to match their tonality or you won’t have responsiveness. 

Real life Wolf of Wall Street Jordan Belfort is exceptional at this, obviously he’s done a lot of dodgy shit so not really a guy to model but he absolutely knows what he’s talking about when it comes to building rapport.

7) Even linguistic patterns – this is a separate video in itself but most people tend to prefer a particular representational system, either visual, auditory or kinaesthetic. If you pick up on someone using a lot of words associated with one in particular, try to tweak and weave in relevant words and phrases that will appeal to them, and let them know you’re on their level. 

So something as simple as modifying how you ask someone if they’ve understood what you’ve said:

  • For more visual people – “do you see what I mean?
  • For more auditory – “do you hear what i’m saying?
  • For more kinaesthetic – “do you feel me?

That might seem a bit out there but honestly it will communicate to their subconscious mind that you are like them.

Three Rules to Avoid Looking Like a Total Alien

The thing is, you don’t want the person in question to consciously notice you matching and mirroring, but you want their unconscious mind to notice it!

Make it SLOW – Coping what someone is doing exactly as they’re doing it is creepy. Slow it down like an echo response. You can use a voice prompt, most of the time when someone goes to say something they make a gesture or change posture or something like that and it makes for an incredibly useful tool for moving into rapport with the person you’re communicating with. 

Make it SUBTLE – Watching what a person is doing is creepy. Use your peripheral vision. If you’re trying to match breath then make sure you don’t stare at someones tits. If someone crosses their legs, you could mirror in miniature and cross your ankles

Make it AUTHENTIC – It might seem obvious but make real and authentic – if someone has a gorgeous Irish accent for the love of god don’t fucking copy it. 

Though it’s perfectly normal for your accent to differ a little when you’re in different place or around different people. I notice that in myself so much. It’s called multidialectalism and it’s just another example of subconscious matching and mirroring. 

Non-verbal Communication is Key

Now when we’re looking at building rapport a common statistic thrown around is that non verbal communication accounts for a massive 93% of the message communicated.

It is understood that only 7% of communication is verbal, with 38% the tone of voice and a whopping 55% of communication is physiology. This comes from way back in the 1960’s, when a guy called Albert Mehrabian studied communication.

But admittedly this 7% verbal – 93% non verbal rule is wildly misquoted because to be honest the statistics aren’t really that accurate. Mehrabian wasn’t looking at sentences or speeches but single words. Specifically changing the emotional intent behind a word. His message was that we get our understanding of the emotional intent behind words from non-verbal cues. And when there’s an incongruence with what your saying and what you mean, we believe the non-verbal communication.

For example “I’m not pissed off with you” (in a super pissed off tone with super pissed off body language) and “Honestly don’t worry I’m not upset” (in a super sad tone and with super sad body language).

But even if the statistics aren’t really applicable to all kinds of communication all the time, for the purpose of rapport building, universally we all need to prioritise non-verbal communication.

It cuts the time that it takes to connect with people down drastically. It takes time to find commonality verbally, but by using voice and expression and body language, you instantly have commonality. 

An incredibly useful time to use matching and mirroring and pacing and leading is when you’re trying to get someone to understand your point of view, especially if they’re wildly different. If you look at two people arguing they’re very rarely in rapport.

It can be really challenging especially when morals are at question but do you want to tell them how wrong they are, or do you want to change their opinion?

Coming at your opponent with outrage will never help them understand your point. I’m guilty of this – I’ve had one too many cuba librés at a Cancun resort and had a raging argument with a gun enthusiast wearing a “make America great again” cap. Was I ever ever going to get him to see my point? No, I was too busy yelling to even think about building rapport. But I was drunk so I’ll let myself off.

Over to You

I absolutely challenge you to try rapport building in your life with someone with whom it doesn’t flow naturally, and see just how differently the interaction goes.

Let me know in the comments if you start to notice yourself doing it unconsciously after watching this – you totally will now you’re aware of it. 

Thanks so much for reading xx 

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