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Effective Communication, Rapport Building and Calibration Skills for Coaches

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calibraton skills training NLP coachThe following information is discussed in extensive detail in the Life Strategies Coaching Certification and Results Coaching Certification. Communication, specifically, highly-effective communication, is absolutely vital to relationships, business and coaching results for your clients.

Beyond Words:  Keys to Effective Communication

Building healthy relationships is the goal of successful communication.   This article will focus on the skills and tools of how to effectively establish rapport, create a positive state of being, calibrate for information by using exquisite sensory acuity, multiple perceptual filters, and to influence respectfully using the concepts of pacing and leading and anchoring.

What is Rapport?

Rapport is that ability to establish a connection with another; to align with their reality and find commonalities which create feelings of safety, openness, and trust. 

The NLP presupposition, “Communication is redundant,” is a focus of chapter 2 in the Life Strategies Coaching manual.  We are constantly sending and receiving information through our sensory modalities. The more we are aware of the wealth of information that is transferred in our non-verbal communication, the more we are able to connect, build rapport, and meet the outcomes and goals for our interactions.

A study published in The British Journal Social Psychology in 1978 shows that effectiveness of when we communicate, 55% is non-verbal, 38% is tone and tempo and analog of the words, and 7% is the actual words.  So while the content of what we say is important and skillful use of language is essential for good communication, it is also crucial to be aware and in control of the other 93% of the message being sent through our voice and body language – non-verbal communication.

Another form of communication is termed precision communication.

Sensory Acuity – Sensory Based Awareness (Calibration)

In calibrating for distinctions we are going to be using our sensory skills to notice the details and information being presented.  As we gather this information it is important to pay attention to sensory based descriptions.  This will keep us from “mind-reading” or “hallucinating” or interpreting through emotional responses and assumptions.

Sensory based information is describing what actually existing behaviorally and environmentally, rather than the generalities of emotion.  For example:  “She must be really mad at me!” would become, “I haven’t received a phone call for three days from her and I wonder what has happened.”  Or, “I just know she’s mad at me.” becomes “The look on her face has a furrowed brow, piercing eyes and clenched teeth, and her breathing is shallow and rapid.”  And, she could be mad at someone else!

The benefit of becoming more and more sensory aware is that we notice finer distinctions of information and we let go of assumptions and mind-reading that could lead us to delete, distort or generalize important information.

Coaching Exercise for Sensory Acuity:

#1.  Observe several TV talk shows, political debates or other shows of this type.  Describe what you see happening using sensory based language.

For example:

Judgmental language: “The candidate was argumentative.” (a mind-read)

Sensory based language: “The candidate’s voice was loud. His sentences were short and each sentence began with ‘No, but…’  He jumped into the conversation and interrupted the host.  He was continuously shaking his head from side to side, while he rolled his eyes upward and sighed deeply when the other candidate was speaking.” 

As you increase your objectivity and calibration skills, you are become better at modeling and detecting patterns. The value of having this expertise is that your can stay with current reality and not get caught up in opinion, judgment and over-generalizations.

Calibration Skill Drills

The following are behavioral drills to give you detailed practice in increasing your sensory awareness and acuity.  Invite a friend to assist you in learning these skills.

Visual Acuity – Purpose: Taking in information available visually, increasing awareness and knowing what to do with the information noticed.

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Have your partner to strike a pose.
  3. Open your eyes and take a “snapshot” of them. Visually notice what you see – using ‘soft focus’.
  4. Close your eyes.
  5. Have your partner slightly alter their posture, facial expression, or other visual change.
  6. Open your eyes again and quickly assess what difference you notice. Describe what you notice.
  7. Partner gives feedback as to accuracy.
  8. Repeat several times, each time making the distinctions more subtle to really stretch your acuity for detailed awareness.


Here is more information on how a coach can learn eye accessing cues to better help a client during communication and motivational interviewing.


Auditory Acuity – Purpose:  Listening for rhythm, tempo, pitch, volume and other distinctions of the auditory presentation.  This is great for establishing rapport in telephone conversations.

  1. Sit or stand back to back with your friend. Ask them to say a short phrase such as, “Hello, my name is (state name) and I live in (state town or state)”
  1. As closely as possible, repeat their phrase exactly. Paying particular attention to the non-verbal delivery.
  2. Receive feedback as to how closely they feel your were matching.
  3. Repeat steps 1 through 3 until the match is as close as possible.


For a stretch: Listen to their statement again, then respond with your own word content, still matching their rhythm, pitch, tempo, etc.

The value of using sensory-based information is that it is measurable and verifiable and that it keeps us from getting pulled off track by our filters and generalities.

Note: The purpose of a skill drill is to build on success and to increase sensory awareness and familiarity with a new skill.  In the following drills, the person who is being calibrated should first make a change that is obvious enough for the person closing their eyes to notice.  Each time the person is successful, make the next change more subtle, and always end the skill drill on a successful calibration.


Interesting in learning more on this topic? You will want to click over to learn more about our related professional training courses: Life Strategies Coach Certification and the Results Coach Certification.

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