Creating rapport in a coaching relationship is absolutely essential for the success of the whole process. In most cases coaches are very natural in creating rapport and are able to establish it without too much effort. However, when establishing a strong rapport doesn’t happen quickly enough, the method of “matching and mirroring” can be used.
When using matching and mirroring, we are working on a non-verbal level. We can match and mirror:
1.) The body language of our client. Here it is important to stress that matching and mirroring should be done with utmost subtlety, rather than mimicking the other person. The idea is to make small adjustments to your posture or stance until you either match (do exactly the same) or mirror (do a mirror image) of your client. When after a while you change your posture and your client follows you, that means you have entered the “leading” phase and the rapport has been successfully established.
2.) The gestures of your client. If you work with someone who uses very expressive gestures, you could match those with similar but smaller gestures of your own. Again, subtlety is very important. To match and mirror, you can follow the same process as in number 1 above.
3.) The breathing rate of your client. This is an extremely effective way of building rapport at a deeper level but requires a certain level of experience. Follow the same steps as described earlier.
As a preparation tool, it is always helpful to observe and mirror facial expressions. When someone smiles at you, it is a natural instinct to smile back. Once you have established rapport and have reached the “leading phase” of the process, you can “lead” your clients into a “smiling state”. You can let them follow you into sitting upright, being relaxed and smiling and this should immediately get them into a more relaxed and optimistic state of mind.
As you can see, by using the matching and mirroring process, not only will you establish your rapport reasonably fast, you will also help your client to get into a more resourceful and open state, thus work more effectively.
Natalie Ekberg is an international personal and executive coach and offers self-improving, motivational and coaching e-courses and e-books as well as face to face or telephone coaching.