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The Importance Of Rapport In Business Using Neuro Linguistic Programming NLP

May 7, 2008
Neuro Linguistic Programming NLP is a discipline originally developed by studying and modeling the work of world-class therapists such as Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir and Fritz Perls. One of the attributes that these and any great therapist has is a deep level of understanding and communication with their client. In general we call this rapport.

One of the greatest lessons that NLP can teach us in the business world is that of rapport.

Rapport is one of those unusual talents that most everyone possesses. If you stop for a moment the next time you are in a restaurant and look round at the other tables, notice how the people are sitting. For the most part, a couple or group of people at a particular table will be sitting in a similar way, all leaning forward, or all leaning backward, hands together or more open. In any case adopting similar postures. We recognize this as a sign that those people are in rapport, even though they may not be consciously aware of it themselves.

At the same time, rapport is one of those skills, which we find extremely difficult to acquire when we don't have it, or practice and improve when we do. Why is this, and what can we do about it?

Many books talk about rapport and how to get it. Some say that rapport is simply a case of mirroring the posture, gestures and other behaviors of the other person. However, in NLP we would say this is putting the cart before the horse, and that mirroring is the result of rapport, not the cause. If you have ever tried consciously mirroring, you may know how awkward it feels, and how it can make you feel less in-tune with the person because you are paying attention to their posture rather than to them.

Neuro Linguistic Programming tells us that rapport is an unconscious process. Let's suppose we are sitting in a business meeting with a group of colleagues; as the group gets "into rapport", an unconscious feedback loop is established. This is to say that each unconscious mind first joins with the group, and only then communicates that it is part of the group by adopting the group behaviors, which includes obvious external group behaviors such as posture.

The individual, who "pretends" by consciously matching group postures in this same business meeting, does not give his unconscious mind time to actually join the group mind-set. While he may appear to be a part of the group to a casual observer, the group recognizes his difference. This may lead to comments such as "I can't put my finger on it, but there's something a little off about him".

If this is the case, then how can we use this knowledge to begin to build better rapport with our business colleagues, customers and clients, and business suppliers? The answer is simple: get into unconscious rapport with the individual or group, and we will automatically see matching of postures and other behaviors.

There are three key things that we have to do to achieve unconscious rapport:

* Silence our internal dialogue. This will give us the space to put our attention on the group
* Become intensely and respectfully curious about the thoughts, beliefs and behaviors of the others around us
* Allow ourselves to notice the most subtle behavioral cues of our business colleagues, and clients; I would suggest their breathing.

As our attention moves from our own dialogue to the group, and as we feel that sense of curiosity, we will have unconsciously joined the group mind-set. As a result, our natural rapport skills will begin to behaviorally match those around us. As we notice the most subtle behaviors around us, we will automatically notice the larger behaviors and will begin to calibrate the level of rapport in the group, without being attached to the concept of "being I rapport".

A great way to learn rapport is to attend a Neuro Linguistic Programming training, either an NLP Practitioner course, or a shorter workshop, such as we teach here in New York.
About the Author
Shawn Carson has 20 years of business, management, sales and consulting experience with a global consulting organization. Shawn is an Neuro Linguistic Programming NLP Master Practitioner and Trainer, teaching NLP courses in New York, including NLP Practitioner and NLP Master Practitioner training.
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