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Building Rapport & Influence using the Logical Levels Model (NLP)

Some of you will be aware that I am a big fan of NLP; that’s neuro-linguistic programming just in case you are wondering. My colleague and NLP corporate trainer Martin Eldon describes NLP as ‘making sense of how we make sense‘ and I have used it’s ‘principles’ pretty much every day in my personal and professional life for the last 20 years or more. One of the key elements of NLP is the notion of rapport, so I thought I would make it the subject of this week’s blog.

Rapport & NLP

I have heard rapport described in many ways, including:

  • “Trust and Harmony in a relationship”
  • “A relationship based on mutual trust and understanding”
  • “Building trust, harmony and responsiveness in a relationship”.
  • “When people are like each other, they tend to like each other”
Rapport is influence

Personally, I like Sue Knight’s comment, “Rapport is influence! The higher the level of rapport that exists between you and another, the greater the positive influence you will have on each other”. I believe that rapport is at the heart of the leadership and management of people. Most time, when you are in rapport with someone it happens at the unconscious level.

Building Rapport

The question now becomes: How do I build rapport with someone? Well, you can leave it to chance and it may happen. Alternatively, you can build it by design and one of the key ways of doing this is the process of matching the other person. This means making yourself as much like the other person so that their unconscious mind tells them ‘this person (i.e. you) is just like me.

In face-to-face communication, you can attempt to match three elements of communication. They are:

  • The words that they use. Now, let’s assume for a moment that both of you speak English. That’s fine, but you need to understand that what comes out of our mouths is a representation of how we process information internally. Some folks think in pictures so they use phrases like “I need to get a perspective on this”, “I like to see things in black and white”, “What’s the big picture?”. Some others are more auditory and say things like, “That rings a bell with me”, I’ll sound him out” or “That resonates with me”. The third set of folks process kinaesthetically (with feelings) and use language like, “We need to get to grips with this” or “We need to bend our heads around this problem”. There are other styles but these are the three main ones. So, by listening really carefully to them you can get an insight into how they process information and match their language.
  • The tonality with which they say the words they say. The main areas here are the speed at which they talk and the volume. Some folks talk loud and fast. Some slower and quieter. Again, the idea is that you match their pace and volume so their unconscious mind believes you are just like them.
  • The body language or that is expressed by you and them. This would include their posture, their gestures, eye contact, facial expressions etc. Again to build rapport you notice their body language and match it.

Building Rapport & Influence using the Logical Levels Model (NLP)

Please be aware that you need to match them in a way that is subtle and elegant. If their radar picks up that you are doing this, however positive your intent in doing it, it might damage rapport if they think you are mimicking them!!!!!

So far, so good. Let’s up the level of debate here……….

Building Rapport & the Logical Levels Model (NLP)

Rapport operates on a number of levels and here is where I would like to introduce one of my favourite models from the field of NLP; logical levels. Made famous by Robert Dilts, it explores the different levels at which we operate. They are (starting at the lowest level):

  • Environment: where, when and with whom we do something
  • Behaviours: what we actually do in any environment
  • Skills/competencies: how we do what we do in any environment
  • Beliefs and values: why we do what we do in any environment
  • Identity: who we are in any situation (e.g. our roles as son/daughter, mother/father, friend, colleague etc)
  • Purpose: our vision in any of our roles

So, as an example, we can have a rapport with others who come from the same environment, behave the same as us, and we have a rapport with people with similar capabilities. We might also have a rapport with people who hold similar beliefs and values. Perhaps the ultimate rapport is when we have a rapport with our own Identity or our purpose.

My premise here is that being in rapport with someone requires there to be a level of similarity or commonality between you both. So, my suggestion here is that we can have a rapport with someone at any level of the logical levels model, but that rapport at the higher levels is potentially more powerful.

Building Influence using Rapport
So, now it’s your turn. Start to play with the idea of rapport. As when you learn any new skill, it may seem a bit strange at first. Look around you and begin to notice examples of people being in rapport and notice how they are matching each other. I promise you that if you can master the ‘art’ of building rapport, your levels of influence will increase. You may be surprised as you begin to notice rapport operating at different levels just what you actually do notice.

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