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Rapport rapport rapport

By on February 27, 2015
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Whenever the issue of rapport between therapist (or coach) and client is raised, argument follows. In the NLP canon rapport is built by mirroring and matching. This can be done on a physical basis (by matching gestures of physiology for example), a verbal basis (by matching sensory predicates and ‘hot words’) or on the basis of matching beliefs and values. Rapport allows the coach to ‘pace and lead’, first pacing to build rapport, then leading the client in a new direction.

Other people, generally not from the NLP school of thought, deny the importance of building rapport in change work. So it’s nice to see a piece of research that backs up the importance of rapport.

Now we are taking research from one field here, and applying it to another field. In this case the research is from educational research and we are applying it to the field of coaching. But in a successful coaching session the client changes, and change is simply learning a new feeling or behavior.

In the research Jennifer Gross from Grand Valley State University allowed students to rate professors based on a short video clip. The amount the student learned from the various professors were measured and sure enough the more the student liked the professor, the more they learned. Now, of course, liking a professor is not necessarily the same as rapport in the sense we use it in NLP but it’s pretty close. So rapport = liking = learning = change.

Here’s the research:

Jennifer Gross and her colleagues explain that student evaluations of professors are made up of three key factors: each professor’s actual ability (this component tends to correlate across ratings given by different students); each student’s rating bias (this component correlates across the ratings given by the same student to different professors – for example, some students are more lenient in their ratings than others); and relationship effects. This last component that is one of the key points of interest in the new study. Some student-professor pairings lead to “unusually effective teaching” (and it’s possible to predict which ones)

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