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Rapport, Pacing and Leading

The prerequisite for any good communication is trust. Most people have few good strategies for creating sympathy with other people. NLP teaches a number of very effective ways to bring yourself closer to others and build a bridge to them.

Table of Contents

(taken from an introductory lecture in Psychological Physiology)

  1. What is rapport?
  2. Definition of rapport
  3. Applying rapport
  4. Building Rapport: Pacing and Leading
  5. Crossover mirroring
  6. Practice exercises
  7. Exercise: Pacing and Leading
  8. Exercise: Matching and Mismatching
  9. Exercise: Pacing statements

What is a Rapport? Simply explained

Definition of rapport

Rapport means addressing people at their level and using their language to convince them of thoughts they would not have understood had they been portrayed in a different form. Rapport is the ability to enter someone else's world and build a bridge to it. It is the art of receiving the support and cooperation of others in order to achieve a common goal. Rapport is a relationship characterized by agreement, same direction or similarity. If rapport is present, then the resistance disappears. Rapport means building up a deep contact with the other's unconscious, getting on the other’s wavelength. Rapport is created through conscious or unconscious alignment with each other..

Applying rapport

Buidling rapport: Pacing and Leading

In numerous observations, it has been found that people who like each other and have a deep contact with each other, adapt to each other in their expressive behavior. This principle can also be reversed: by adapting one’s expressive behavior to the other, rapport can be established with that person.

  • Mirroring refers to physical adapting to posture, gestures, breathing, facial expressions, movements or weight shifts, muscle tone, etc. Here you adapt to everything that you can see like a mirror.
  • Pacing means to adapting to the other’s entire visual and auditory expression. You pick up the other person where he is. You pace, e.g., the other’s speed of speech, rhythm, pitch. Everything that belongs to the mirroring falls into this category.
  • Matching is even more comprehensive and refers to matching the style of speech (e.g., representational systems) and patterns (e.g., meta-programs).
  • Leading After adjusting to the partner for a while and establishing rapport, you can then move on to leading the interaction, thereby changing the direction of communication. Leading means to lead someone on the basis of rapport and in terms of the win-win principle to a specific goal or result.
  • The Win-Win Principle bases conflict resolution or the result of a negotiation on the fact that both involved parties benefit from it and can regard themselves as winners. In contrast to other strategies, which aim to achieve the maximum benefit only for one party, here also the interests of the opposing party are taken into consideration. The win-win principle is associated with positive thinking and honest compromises. The focus is on a good result for both sides. Sometimes it takes some creativity to find such a solution.

I would also like to suggest that the Win-Win Principle be extended by the win-win-win principle. Here not only the two parties are involved but also larger systems, e.g., society or humanity.

Crossover Mirroring

Crossover mirroring is a special kind of pacing / mirroring: the counterpart is mirrored here either in another representational system or with a different kind of movement. An example: If your conversation partner is pacing up and down, then you can move your fingers to that rhythm, or you can move your upper body back and forth. Here is another distinction: Crossover mirroring does not mean that you mirror the movement of the right arm of your conversation partner with your left leg. This can be an example, but only a very unusual one. Overall, crossover mirroring is a very effective method for producing rapport.

Practice exercises for good rapport

Exercise: Pacing and Leading

In pairs: A and B, ca. 5-10 minutes

  1. A makes movements with the whole body, B adapts to these.
  2. After a while B goes over gently to lead. A adapts to B.
  3. More gentle changes in pacing and leading, so that a "dance" arises.

These body movements can be arbitrarily replaced by one of the following rapport-forming behaviors:

  • breathing rhythm
  • posture, minor body movements (gestures)
  • minimal movements (e.g., frowning, rocking a foot, etc.)
  • volume of the voice, speaking speed
  • speech patterns and keywords
  • blinking

After some practice, you can proceed to pace or lead two or more of these behaviors. A and B can also pace and lead different behaviors.

Practice "Crossover Mirroring", e.g., by mirroring breathing with movements of a leg, the blinking of an eye with a finger movement, crossed arms with crossed legs, speech rhythm with head movements etc.

Practice: Matching and Mismatching

Group of three: A, B and C, ca. 10 minutes, then change roles

  1. A tells something about his life (e.g., about a holiday experience, about work, about art, culture, etc.)
  2. B listens and paces (mirrors) A in at least three behaviors (e.g., posture, breathing rhythm, and speech rate (cross-over, if possible))
  3. After a few minutes B breaks the rapport with corresponding changes in the previously mirrored behaviors.
  4. After a few more minutes, B returns to pacing again.
  5. C notes the what B changes when going into and breaking rapport.
  6. A and B share impressions of made by the changes in their inner experience.
  7. C reports on his / her observations (meaningful: what you have seen and heard!)

After some practice, you can proceed to pace or lead two or more of these behaviors. A and B can also pace and lead different behaviors.

Exercise: Pacing statements

Remember a situation that is typical for you and in which you communicate with other people.

  • A. Sensory perception
    Enumerate three things that you can perceive in the situation presented. What do you see, hear and / or feel?
    Integrate these perceptions into conversation.
  • B. Platitudes
    List three generalities or facts that apply in this situation. Integrate these into a conversation.

Read further: Exercise suggestions and ideas

Rapport and body language: suggestions and exercises

In this section, you will find exercise proposals and ideas for putting the theory explained into practice.

The exercises offer you the possibility to consolidate and integrate what you learned. Many groups spend hours talking before they start practicing and end up rushing through a practice format. In order to avoid that, I suggest you schedule a time when you will practice. Start practicing immediately and postpone - interesting- conversations to another time.

During the exercise, it is recommended that you take notes which you can discuss with your group afterwards. You can work on the questions together, but you should answer in your own words. The same also applies for literature that you can use as an aid in answering. Use your own formulations.

Theoretical questions should be answered as briefly as possible. Processes should be described as detailed as possible! If you don 't have much time, you can simply just do a part of the exercises, which is much better than not practicing at all. Muscles only grow stronger when they are used and trained regularly. The same goes with NLP. Knowledge alone won't change your life - but ACTIONS will! I have already launched a website called to help people find local peer groups in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. If you live in the UK or another country however, you can simply ask friends to join or search for like-minded people.

Theoretical questions on rapport and body language

  1. What does "calibration" mean?
  2. What is "rapport" and why is it useful to build rapport?
  3. What possibilities are there for building rapport?
  4. What does "crossover mirroring" mean?
  5. Which names play an important role in the history of NLP?
  6. Which disciplines are these names associated with?
  7. What is the underlying idea of NLP?

Practical exercises

  1. What does "calibration" mean?
  2. Observe the people around you on the street, in a restaurant, at a public event or wherever you currently are and discover whether there is rapport between them or not.
  3. Mirror body movements of other people and thus build rapport with them.
  4. Call a friend and pace his speech tempo and volume on the phone. Take notice of his favorite expressions.
  5. Pace the mood of another person. Then, lift his mood.
  6. When you are getting intimate with your partner, pace his/her breathing.
  7. Practice the pacing rhythm: pacing, pacing, leading!