Fitness trends
Gaining rapport, winning trust


In education, therapy, counselling, business, or selling and participation, how do you get into the communication loop? How can you respect and appreciate another person’s model of the world while retaining your own integrity?

What do we do to gain rapport with people? How do we create a relationship of trust and responsiveness? And how can we refine this natural skill? Examples of rapport between two (or more) people can be seen in everyday life: in restaurants, offices, at the mall or

in sports. One only needs to observe their behaviour and body language.

The most important indicator is that communication seems to flow when two people are in synch: body language and tonality are as important as the words we utter to communicate. You may have noticed that partners/ team members respond and mirror each other in posture, gesture and eye contact.

It is like a dance, where each one responds and mirrors each other’s movements with movements of their own. The partners are engaged in a dance of mutual responsiveness. Their body language is complimentary. Have you ever found yourself enjoying a conversation with somebody and noticing that your bodies have adopted the same posture?

Creating trust

The deeper that rapport, the closer the match will tend to be. This skill would seem to be inborn, for new-born babies move in rhythm with voices of the people around them.

However, when people are not in rapport their bodies reflect it: whatever they say to each other, their body language will not match. They are not engaged in a synchronous dance, and you can sense it immediately!
Successful people create rapport, and rapport creates trust. You can create rapport whoever you wish by consciously refining the natural rapport skills that you use every day. By matching and mirroring body language and tonality you can very quickly gain rapport with almost anyone.

Matching eye contact is an obvious rapport skill, and usually the only one that is consciously taught in English culture, which has a strong taboo against noticing body language consciously and responding to it.

To create rapport, join the other person by matching his/her body language, sensitively and with respect. Matching is not the same as mimicry, which is noticeable, exaggerated and indiscriminate copying of another person’s movements. But in “cross-over mirroring” you can match distribution of the body weight and basic posture.

When people are like each other, they like each other. You may also have observed that when two people are deep in rapport, they breathe in unison. These are the basic elements of rapport. As an experiment, notice what happens when you mirror others. Then notice what happens when you stop.


Notice especially what happens when you mismatch. Some councillors and therapists mirror and match almost unconsciously, almost compulsively. Mismatching is a very useful skill. The most elegant way to end a conversation is to disengage from the dance. But you cannot disengage from the dance if you have not been dancing in the first place.

The most extreme mismatch, of course, is to turn your back on him/her.

Voice matching is another way that you can gain rapport. You can match tonality, speed, volume and rhythm of speech. This is like joining another person’s song or music: you blend in and you harmonize. You can use voice matching to gain rapport in a telephone conversation.

Then you can also mismatch, changing the speed and the tone of your voice to end the conversation. This is a very useful skill. To close a telephone conversation naturally is sometimes difficult.

There are two limits to your ability to gain rapport: the degree to which you can perceive other people’s posture, gestures and speech patterns; and the skill with which you can match them in the dance of rapport. The relationship will be a harmonious dance between your integrity, what you can model of the world.

Notice how you feel when you match: you may well feel uncomfortable matching some people. There are certainly some behaviour patterns you will not want to match directly. You would not want to a match breathing pattern that was much faster than yours naturally is, nor would you match an asthmatic breathing pattern.

You could mirror both with small movements of your hand. A person’s fidgety movement can be subtly mirrored by swaying your body. This is sometimes called cross-matching, using some analogous behaviour rather than directly matching.

If you are prepared to use these skills consciously, you can create rapport with whoever you choose. You do not have to like the other person to create rapport: you are simply building a bridge to understand him/her better. Creating rapport is a choice; but unless you try it you will not know whether or not it is effective, or what results it can deliver.

So rapport is the total context around the verbal message. If the meaning of communication is the response it elicits, gaining rapport is the ability to elicit that response.

– Justin Wright

fitness magazine in india The writer is a Master Trainer for Star Trac. He is currently lecturing in India, organising awareness and conducting training sessions for Trinity Healthtech.




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