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How Can a Coach Build Rapport With a Client?

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coaches use mirroring and matching to build rapportEstablishing Rapport – Aligning to Create Relationship

Throughout the Spencer Institute Life Strategies Coach Certification the focus is on establishing relationship for powerful and respectful communication.  In this assignment we present many of the non-verbal ways to contribute to rapportRapport happens naturally, and yet we want to be able to create it on purpose, maintain it throughout the inter-action, know how to respectfully break rapport, and when necessary, to re-establish the connection.


In establishing rapport, posture, gestures, facial expressions are some of the easiest things to align with through the concept of Matching or Mirroring.  This is the simple ability to notice how a person is sitting, standing or moving, what gestures they are making, if any, and paying attention to the facial expressions that give information about their state of being and how they are thinking, plus paying attention to their breathing rhythm.

As you are establishing rapport you may choose to align with any or all of these components as needed.  Direct Mirroring means matching any of these elements.  If someone is has a smile, is breathing calmly, using flowing gestures, and sitting with their legs crossed – it would be appropriate to match any or all of these components.  Cross-over Mirroring is noticing one of the elements being presented by the other person and matching it in by using another system; particularly breathing rhythm.  For instance if someone is breathing in a fast or tense mode, rather than breathing with them, you could move your finger, pencil, or do head nod in the fast, tense rhythm.

(Note:  Next we learn how to lead a person to a more resourceful state.  It is not our intention to have you stay in a negative or unresourceful pattern.)

Coaching Exercises for Matching/Mirroring:

#1.  Choose a situation where the content of the interaction is not crucial such as a casual conversation with a friend.

Begin to match any of the components and when you feel there is a good rapport (about 30 to 45 seconds), purposefully mismatch these same components (about 10 to 20 seconds) and notice what happens to the conversation.  Go back to matching again and re-establish the rapport.

Record your observations.  If the person you are experimenting with will co-operate, ask them their experience and if they noticed as you changed from matching to mismatching and back to matching.

#2.   Ask a friend to help you with this discovery exercise.

  1. Choose a topic for discussion where the two of you will disagree.

Discuss the topic, each advocating your position strongly, while mirroring and matching.  Notice your experience.


  1. Choose a topic for discussion where the two of you will discuss the topic while non-verbally mis-matching.  Notice your experience.


  1. Now choose a topic where you agree and match.  How does that feel?


Review the conversations, comparing the quality of communication and relationship experience.

This is just one aspect, although an important one, for building client rapport as a coach.

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