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How to Exploit Rapport in Coaching

Hire Matt S.   Coaching   Comments   5 min
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Rapport is a somewhat exotic English word derived from the French verb rapporter, meaning to bring back, to refer. The English meaning, a relation of harmony, conformity, accord or affinity, indicates the importance of rapport to communication and consequently coaching. This article examines what coaches need to know.
Rapport in coaching is a question of getting on our coachee's wavelength; it's about appreciating how they see the world and adapting our communication style to match.

I remember a time I used rapport to my advantage.

I was called with very little notice to run the second day of a 2-day course. The trainer that had been working with the group on the first day had been taken ill. I was entirely comfortable with the subject matter, but I was worried that I would be running some quite sensitive role plays, etc. without the benefit of knowing the group well.

I decided to arrive early and spend some time chatting to the delegates as they arrived. We spoke about the weather and last night's football and so on but not much about the training itself.

Looking back though I realize this small talk was part of establishing rapport as I was probably 'matching' in terms of tone and body language. Perhaps I was also matching people's sensory preference (see below) although I wasn't conscious of doing so at the time.

I was however aware that a strong rapport had been established and we went on to have a great day.

I also remember a time when a lack of rapport was a problem

I had been given a referral to visit a client who wanted to discuss coaching skills training.

I drove across town to meet with the client on what was already a busy day. I had trouble finding a parking space and was nearly late for the appointment by the time I arrived.

I was then kept waiting a further 10 minutes in a dingy corridor and by the time the client arrived I was not in the best frame of mind. We went to a small room where the client explained that he didn't have much time that day and then launched into this rambling tale of woe about his workforce.

I explained that I didn't feel able to solve his problem but would try to find someone who could. I was back on the street inside 10 minutes.

There were several reasons why I was unable to establish rapport: Stress, lack of time, prejudice - "This guy is wasting my time" - and not looking for cues.

I should have engineered a few moments for small talk at the start of the meeting to allow for matching and matched the energy in the client's communication if not the content, which was a little doom laden.

Most people are aware of the three sensory preferences - Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic - but we must remember that they are not absolutes. I.e. just because because someone has a strong auditory preference does not mean that they cannot visualize. In coaching we need therefore to take account of how these preferences blend to give each individual their unique perspective and to recognize and respond to the following ways in which people filter information.


Moving away from v Moving towards

Some people are clear about what they want and move towards it. Others see what they don't want and move away from it. We need to be able to move away from danger or from unproductive situations, but moving away gives very little direction or focus to our efforts.


Specific v General

Some people like the big picture and aren't interested in detail. Others prefer the detail but may be uncomfortable with the big picture. Sometimes we just need to have one before being comfortable with the other.


Sorting for others v Sorting for self

People who sort for self may be thought of as selfish but it would be more accurate to say they tend to notice the needs of others less.


Sorting for good v Sorting for bad

Some of us go about in the world and notice everything that is wrong. Others go about the very same world and see only what is wonderful about it. Either extreme is a bit dangerous. The first people miss the best parts of their lives. The others may fall in a hole.


Internal frame of reference v External frame of reference

Those with an external frame of reference look outside themselves for approval or confirmation. Those with an internal frame of reference have their own clear ideas about the value of something.


Possibility v Necessity

Some of us react to necessity. We give value to something if we have to, need to, should. Other people are switched on by possibilities. We wonder, what could I do? What might I do? What would happen if.


Similarity v Difference

Some people notice how things are like other things they know. They may like things that are comfortable and familiar. Others sort for what is different, new, a change, a challenge.


In time v Through time

People who are in time live in the moment. They are exciting to be with and irritating to wait for. People who are through time have time on a continuum and always know where they are on it, and what is next. They are punctual and planned.

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