Rapport comes and goes. There’s a misunderstanding that once you have developed it, that’s it. No further rapport building is required and one can simply forget about it.


Rapport comes and goes. It’s strength increases and decreases dependant on the state of the person you are communicating with, your state, with the topic of conversation, with the environment and many other forgotten influencing factors.

Many people believe that the simple skill of matching and mirroring is enough. That if the other party is replying politely that this in itself is rapport. This is not the case!

Rapport is NOTHING without sensory acuity – the ability to notice the subtle physiological, external and internal indicators that you have moved someone for disconnected to you, to connected, or from connected to even more connected.

Just last year my company was participating in an exhibition where there were many personal development and NLP types attending.

As I was in charge of the exhibition stand it was part of my job to be friendly and interact with people in order to help them develop an interest in the products and services we had to offer there.

One particular customer that approached me, introduced himself as a hypnotherapist. Being a hypnotherapist myself, I have a good understanding of the degree of rapport required to help someone help themselves to access a trance state.

It’s a significant amount of rapport. For example, I first need to listen to the client so that they feel they have been heard and that I have been respectful towards them. I don’t then launch into my “Paul McKenna” hypnotic voice! It would be very odd if I did. Instead I have to start at the same pace of where that client is currently and take them on the journey to a relaxed state.

I’m sure I have used the example elsewhere before but to put it simply, you can’t be at the top of the relaxation mountain calling down to your client who is currently at the bottom and say “come on up here- its great!” They can’t get there on their own, they don’t know the way. You have to leave the mountain, go to where they are and show them the way up, should like to follow you.

So going back to the exhibition, this man approached me and said he was a hypnotherapist to which I replied something like “cool.”

My new hypnotherapist friend took this and perhaps other imagined visual clues from me as a green for go signal that we had achieved rapport with each other and began to say things like:

“…and the amazing thing about hypnosis is …… You can be talking or listening whilst in a trance ….. And not even know ….. You know…..”

All said in a slow and sleepy voice.

Now I may well have been in a trance after 3 days in a exhibition hall with no natural daylight but it certainly wasn’t his trance I was in!

So in a brisk and upbeat voice (completely mismatching the one he had been using “on me”) I said something along the lines of “great and I hear you have been practising your hypnotherapist voice. Well done it sounds great.”

To which he said in a slow and sleepy voice “yes and you can hear my voice and wherever you go-”

Fearing the sentence was about to end with “my voice will go with you” I rudely interrupted once again and said “are you trying to hypnotise me? Only I’m a bit busy running an exhibition stand right now.”

Of course he gave it another stab, saying something about  me already being hypnotised by him at which point I reached out my hand and said “thank you for visiting our stand, enjoy the rest of the event. ”

I eventually managed to get my hand out of his grasp and successfully hid from him each time he passed our stand from that point onwards.

Rapport should not be a one way affair!  In order to realise whether you’ve got it or not, the sensory acuity must be running and evaluating continuously in the background. You must achieve one (or ideally more) of the following indicators of rapport

1. The other person experiences a colour change.
They may glow as if a warmness towards you is activated in their system.
2. They say something that verifies the rapport is there.
They may be particularly agreeable, supportive or say they feel very connected to you.
3. You get an internal feeling.
This for me is the strongest indicator. I can only describe it as a feeling of ease.
4. You are able to lead them.
Either from the state they are in to another one or from a topic of conversation to another one.

So I do wonder what happens happens when overly keen hypnotherapists hoping to experiment with rapid inductions on members of the public believe they have rapport when really they have not?

I don’t suppose much can be achieve with unrequited rapport!

Let’s all make an effort to evaluate the feedback we receive from others so that we can establish whether the rapport we had was real or imagined.

By Gemma Bailey