You can only help someone transform to the degree that they entrust you to help them transform.
Have you ever been referred to someone, perhaps an expert in a field, someone top of their game, who gets rave reviews, but when you meet them you wonder what all the hype is about? You just don’t feel a connection. You don’t feel seen, heard, understood.
A person can be top of their game, world-renowned but unless they take the time from the minute you make the connection (on the phone or via Skype or email or in person) to establish rapport, their expertise are of no effect.
Establishing rapport is similar to tilling the soil to plant the seeds. It’s about creating a safe space for your clients before working your magic.
So, what is rapport? It’s a coaching technique that allows you to build trust between yourself and your client. And why is it important? If trust isn’t present, your client will resist change work and they won’t get the results they want. If rapport isn’t present, your client’s armor goes up instead of coming down. Rapport is the first essential step in a coaching relationship.
So if rapport creates trust, how do you establish it?
You tune in to your client to get on the same page. You pay attention to how they are feeling, their body language, their word choice and their tone of voice. Then you try to match it. If a client is depressed and talking softly and you respond in a loud, gregarious voice, they are going to feel defensive.
Similarly, if your client is upbeat and enthusiastic and you speak softly and show little emotion, that person will also feel “unmatched”. So part of establishing rapport is mirroring your client so they feel more at home with you, like you get them, you’re on the same page.
This doesn’t mean you must be disingenuous and wear different masks with different clients. Establishing rapport does not mean you turn into a chameleon. It means you are strong in your core, in your center and you can still match your client in subtle ways that they won’t even notice, but will make them feel safe and seen.
That’s how trust is built. From the start. Establishing rapport is the single most important skill you can learn as a coach and unless you’re naturally good at it, it can take practice.
So be gentle with yourself and know that the more practice you have with a variety of clients, the better you’ll be until establishing rapport is second nature.