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Have you ever met someone and after 10 minutes of talking felt like you have known the person forever? Are there people you just naturally feel comfortable with and other with who you don’t seem to be able to hit it off? The main difference between these two is NLP rapport: with the first group you have naturally, with second, well, not at all. Rapport is a feeling of being in-sync with someone else, to be on the same wavelength and consequently to really understand and appreciate someone else and their opinions.

When you look at communication, we are taught to think that the most important are the words we say. Yet, the words, all in all, only form about 7% of the total communication between two people. That’s not really that much, is it? Roughly 38% are determined by how we say the words (voice qualities), and an astounding 55% by non-verbal communication or body language. That means, it is not only important what you say, but how and with what gestures.

We need NLP rapport for unconsciously making the other person believe that you two are alike, it massively increases response potential. As a consequence, it will be easier for you to lead the other person to your point of view.

So, how do you create it? Well, somewhere in the 1980’s body language books were preaching the concept of mirroring, where you simply mirror all the gestures somebody does. While this is one possibility, there is a high chance this will be quite obvious, and as a result will make you look slightly strange, and the other person will feel quite uncomfortable. Is matching and mirroring manipulation? Read an article here.

Hence, what to do? As it goes, there are a few sneaky things you can do:

Matching means that you do what the other person does. So, if he puts his right leg over his left, you do too. This is already more subtle than mirroring, where you act like a mirror to the other person

Cross over mirroring, you take one aspect and match it with another of yours. For example, they cross their legs, you cross your arms. How sneaky is that?

Of course, even matching and mirroring might be noticed, if you only do it based on their physiology. So, if you want to be really sneaky, you can take it to a whole new level: match voice tonality, tempo, volume, breathing patterns, blinking rates, etc.

Here is a longer definition:

Matching, mirroring and mismatching : An Introduction

Some NLP practitioners use the terms matching and mirroring interchangeably, while others draw the following distinctions:

Mirroring is as if you were looking into a mirror. To mirror a person who has raised his right hand, you would raise your left hand (i.e. mirror image). To match this same person, you would raise your right-hand (doing exactly the same as the other person).

Some practitioners see a time difference between mirroring and matching. For example, if someone makes hand gestures while they are speaking, you would wait until it was your turn to speak before making similar (matching) hand gestures.

When matching, you should first focus on body language, then voice and finally the person’s words. Why? Mehrabian and Ferris (Inference of Attitudes from Nonverbal Communication in Two Channels), Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol. 31, 1967, pp. 248-52) discovered that 55 percent of the impact of a presentation is determined by your body language, 38 percent by your voice and only 7 percent by the content or words that you use.

Body language includes body posture, facial expressions, hand gestures, breathing and eye contact. As a beginner, start by matching one specific behaviour and once you are comfortable doing that, then match another and so on.

For voice, you can match tonality, speed, volume, rhythm and clarity of speech. All of us can vary various aspects of our voice and we have a range in which we feel comfortable. If someone speaks very fast, much faster than you do and at a rate at which you would not feel comfortable: match this person by speaking faster, while staying within a range that is comfortable for you.

For words, Predicates in NLP are words and phrases (primarily verbs, adverbs and adjectives) that often presuppose one of the Representational Systems. If your partner is using mainly visual words, you should also use mainly visual words and similarly for auditory , kinesthetic and auditory digital words. To the extent possible, you should also use the same words as the other person. For example, I may say something is ‘awesome’. In your model of the world, you may interpret awesome as outstanding and use this word when speaking to me. For me outstanding may have a different meaning or evoke a different feeling than ‘awesome’. In this case, you would not be matching but mismatching my words.

Some people find the idea of matching another person uncomfortable and they feel that they are trying to fool or take advantage of the other person. To overcome this uneasiness, realize that matching is a natural part of the NLP rapport building process and that you are doing it unconsciously every day with your close family and friends. Each day gradually increase your conscious use of matching at a pace that is comfortable and ethical for you. Matching done with integrity and respect creates positive feelings and responses in you and others. NLP Rapport is the ability to enter someone else’s world, to make him feel you understand him, and that there is a strong connection between the two of you.


As mentioned earlier, mirroring behaviors can include:

Body Posture
Hand Gestures
Facial Expressions
Weight Shifts
Movement of Feet
Eye Movements

Mirroring is physically ‘copying’ the behaviors of another in a subtle manner. Try mirroring just one aspect of another person’s behavior while talking to them…perhaps their posture. When this is easy, gently include another piece, like their hand gestures. Gradually add another and another until you are mirroring without thinking about it. The more you practice, the easier it will become. You also will be rewarded with the same comfortable, positive response in YOURSELF that you are creating for another.


One basic difference between mirroring and matching is timing. This is sometimes called pacing . While mirroring is simultaneous with the other person’s movements, matching can sometimes have a ‘time delay’ factor to it. For example, if someone is gesturing while talking and making a point, you can be still and attending. When it is your turn to speak, you can make your comments and your point using the same, or similar gestures.

There are other types of matching:

CROSS-OVER MIRRORING is choosing to match one of your behaviours to a corresponding, but different movement of another.

For example, if a person is blinking rapidly, you may cross-over match by discreetly tapping your finger at the same rate as they are blinking; or pace the rhythm of someone’s speaking with slight nods of your head or your breathing.

MISMATCHING is also a useful skill to master. Have you ever had someone go on and on and on when having a conversation with him or her…when you wonder if they will ever stop talking?

You can break eye contact, turn your body at an angle to them, breathe faster or slower in contrast to their breathing…in short, do anything to break rapport by mismatching. You will be surprised how quickly and easily the conversation will draw to a close.

You will find you hear and observe other people in more detail as you learn these basic NLP rapport skills. Paying attention to others in this way is a process of building trust, and the more elegantly you mirror, match and crossover match, the more your customers will turn into “raving fans.”


This involves having a genuine interest in them. One of the most effective ways of creating rapport does not fit easily into the Match & Lead pattern. This is where rapport occurs because of your genuine interest in the other person’s model of the world.


Some people feel they just have to match and mirror.

A young woman who matched and mirrored constantly was sitting across from a colleague who was tired of being mimicked. The colleague slid down in his chair, and of course she did the same. Then the colleague slid down even farther. She did the same. Finally, one slide too many, and the woman literally fell on the floor! Her colleague, conscious of his mirroring, remained in his chair.


The more you practice, the more you will become aware of the different rhythms, gestures, breathing patterns that you and others have. It is fascinating to enter another person’s “map of the world” by mirroring their behavior. You can learn so much more about them this way.

Be sure to be subtle in mirroring when establishing rapport. If the other person is making grand, sweeping gestures, you may choose to make similar, but smaller, less obvious movements. In the beginning it may feel awkward. But the value in learning to achieve and maintain rapport is worth the time and effort it takes to become skilled in this area of communication. And you might be surprised to discover that your ‘intuition’ will be enhanced as you become aware of behaviours and actions of which you were previously unaware.

Mirroring is something we automatically do when we’re around people we feel comfortable with. To learn to mirror purposely in order to gain rapport enables us to enhance our communication with others and have the support of everyone we meet to help us achieve our outcomes and goals.

When speaking to family members or business colleagues, find a specific behavior or movement to focus on and match or crossover match. You might select one behavior per day to practice until you can build a whole repertoire of NLP rapport skills.

You might: Use your hand movement to pace another persons breathing.
Move your foot to pace another person’s head movements.
Tilt your shoulders slightly as the other person tilts their head.
Lift a finger as the other person lifts an eyebrow. And feel free to create your own crossover matching techniques! Also remember to practice mismatching, but be sure to end the interaction in a state of rapport.

To extend your ability to create rapport you need to have excellent sensory acuity and calibration skills, spend time practicing just one form of matching until you can use this easily and without thinking about it. Then add another element, then another, and so on. That’s all there is to it – keen observation and practice.
With consistent practice you will be able to effortlessly create rapport with total strangers in just a few minutes, whether or not you like them, and whether or not you have areas of common interest.

And remember, engaging in rapport must be subtle. If the process intrudes into the other person’s conscious awareness they may respond unfavorably or become uncomfortable.

How to build NLP rapport

Outcome: To be able to establish NLP rapport with any person, at any moment in time.


A. Communication is:

B. When people are like each other, they like each other. Rapport is a process of responsiveness, not necessarily ‘liking’.
A. Rapport is established by matching & mirroring
B. The major elements of rapport:



WORDS (7%)
Facial expression & blinking
Tone (pitch)
Tempo (speed)
Timbre (quality)
Volume (loudness)
Key words
Common experiences & associations
Content chunks
Milton Erikson

A classic if unusual example of rapport can be found in the book “Uncommon Therapy” by Jay Haley (ISBN 0-393-31031-0), about the psychotherapeutic intervention techniques of Milton Erickson. Erickson developed the ability to enter the world view of his patients and, from that vantage point (having established rapport), he was able to make extremely effective interventions (to help his patients overcome life problems). In Neuro-linguistic programming, Richard Bandler and John Grinder noticed that the family therapist Virginia Satir “matched her predicates (verbs, adverbs, and adjectives) to those used by her clients”[1] They noticed Fritz Perls also did similar things with his clients. In addition Milton Erickson mirrored his clients body posture, and movements. However, due to post polio syndrome, Erickson had limited movement and was not able match his clients posture directly. Instead he would change his voice and head position in time with the client’s movements.[1] Bandler and Grinder stated that once mirroring was established, the therapist could then ‘lead’ the client by changing their own state and offering suggestions. It was, thus, a way to improve responsiveness and communication.

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