Body Language Rapport and Influence

Body language communicates something, regardless of whether we wish to communicate or not. Living systems cannot not communicate. Without wishing to push the bounds of credibility, I include plants as demonstrators of body language. They wilt when short of water, lose the green in their leaves when short of nutrients and turn brown at the edges when they get too cold. These events can be observed by anyone. Of course there are more obscure bodily communications in the plant world too. Recognition of disease or predators or the need for exotic growing conditions is the realm of the trained plant body language expert, the horticulturist.

People and animals have a wider repertoire of nonverbal communication than plants. We can move from place to place and make faster, more visible gestures. As humans we can modify our gestures consciously, making voluntary movements as well as displaying unconscious breathing shifts, skin tone changes and micro-muscle movements. We use our bodies to convey interest or disinterest, to establish rapport with others or to stop them in their tracks. We learn cultural norms about appropriate body language for people of our gender, age and status in our daily lives and sometimes find our habitual presentations elicit markedly different responses in other parts of the world.

What can Body Language teach us about People?

So what can body language teach us about other people? With sufficient exposure to another culture we can learn to recognise its members by their body language, the way they move and gesture, how close they stand to other people and how much eye contact they make and with whom. We can learn to recognise how any individual, whatever their origin, is thinking by watching their eye movements, breathing and posture as they interact. This will not tell us what they are thinking. The subject matter of someone’s thoughts remains private until they describe it.

If we observe some interesting body language and ask the person what it means to them, we gain reliable information. If we observe the same person doing the same thing in a similar context in future, we can ask them if it means what they told us last time. This combination of observing a particular person and asking them for meaning for our future reference, is called calibration. We calibrate an individual against themselves in a particular context. In this way we can learn our employers’ requirements, our partners’ preferences and our pets’ idiosyncrasies with some degree of accuracy.

There is an urban myth that we can attribute accurate meaning to body language without calibrating the particular person. This is not useful. Unfortunately the myth has been enshrined in print with examples of body language. Did you know that if a woman points her toe at a man during a conversation she is supposed to fancy him? And what about the old chestnut of folded arms meaning that person is ‘closed’? Does a lowered brow and pursed lips really mean someone is annoyed, or could they be thinking, straining or doing something else?

Take sexual attraction for example. People do dilate their pupils, flush and lean forward in conversation when they are attracted to someone. They also do it when they are passionately interested in the subject matter, so don’t assume it is you, it may be something you are discussing. Of course, that level of interest is conducive to rapport. You may find friendship developing out of a common interest.

If you assume someone is annoyed with you when they go red or white and jump up and down waving their arms in the air, you may attract abuse from them. This is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Until you know more from that person, you don’t even know they are annoyed. They might be trying to dislodge an insect from down their front or be desperate to go to the WC, and even if they are angry, you might not be the subject of their wrath. Making assumptions about the meaning of people’s behaviour is called mind reading. We all do it, but some of us have learned to recognise it and use our assumptions to create questions so we can calibrate for the future.

Using Body Language

We can use other people’s body language to help us create rapport with individuals, groups and at parties. Instead of mind reading, if we place our attention on the other person or people, open our peripheral vision and quieten our internal comments we will notice the rhythm of their whole body movements, speech and gestures. If we match these rhythms with our own bodies we will find ourselves being included in what is going on. This is not the same as literal mimicry. Accurate imitation often gets noticed and objected to. The intent is to match the rhythm by making some form of movement in the same rhythm without attracting conscious attention to it. When we feel included we can test the level of rapport by doing something discreetly different and noticing whether the other or others change what they are doing in response. If they do, you can lead them into a different rhythm or influence the discussion more easily.

When entering groups or parties, if we observe with open peripheral vision and internal quietness we may be able to spot the peer group leaders. They are the people with others around them, the ones who’s movements may be slightly ahead of the others and change first. If we want to influence the whole group, these are the people to match. We may want to establish rapport with each peer group leader individually, or simultaneously. We can do it simultaneously if we are within their visual field and matching their rhythm for a few minutes before engaging them. It is possible to change the direction of quite a large gathering by these methods.

Body Language and Vocal Patterns

Strictly speaking, nonverbal vocal patterns are not body language, but they can be used to establish or break rapport as readily as physical movement. If we match the rate or speed of speech, the resonance, tonality and rhythm used by a person, we will create rapport with them. Again, out and out mimicry is not recommended. Most people will catch it happening. It is more comfortable to match voice patterns at the equivalent pitch in our own range than to attempt note for note matching and to match unfamiliar breathing rhythms with some other emphasis.

Suppose we are voice matching on the telephone and now want to finish the call. The level of rapport is such that it has become hard to disengage. We can change any of the elements we have matched but often the other party simply matches us and carries on. In extreme situations no one minds an abrupt end to a telephone call. How often have we used “there’s a call on the other line”, “someone’s at the door” or “the dog has been sick on the carpet” to end a call without breaking rapport? Then there is the last ditch stand. Cut off the call in the middle of your own speech, not theirs. That way they will assume it was an accident. In person we can make our departure quite firmly and with rapport by doing rapport building with the body and departure with voice patterns or vice versa.

And the quickest and simplest way to use body language to establish rapport? Act as if we are totally fascinated by the person or what they are discussing. All the nonverbal signals we could wish for will come on stream by themselves.

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Building Bridges: The Art of Creating Rapport in Communication

Have you ever wondered how some people have an effortless ability to capture anyone’s attention? They seem to effortlessly engage with others without even trying. The secret to their success lies in their ability to establish rapport.

Rapport is the process of eliciting and holding the unconscious attention of another person or group of people with the goal of facilitating communication. It occurs spontaneously when someone is interested in someone else, or in something they are doing or saying. It is the process of eliciting and holding the unconscious attention of another person or group of people with the goal of facilitating communication.

Rapport is an essential component of successful communication, particularly when there is an outcome that needs to be achieved. It is not about likability or being liked but about establishing a connection that enables communication to flow seamlessly.

According to Chris and Jules Collingwood, the co-creators of the first postgraduate qualification in NLP, rapport is essential to the success of any communication that has an outcome. In other words, it is necessary to achieve the desired outcome of any communication. So, how do you create rapport?

There are various methods of building rapport, and some of the most common ones are physiological, verbal, and nonverbal. Physiological rapport involves matching someone’s posture, breathing, and gestures. Verbal rapport, referred to as pacing, involves making statements that match a person’s ongoing experience, while non-verbal rapport involves matching the tempo and volume of someone’s voice.

John Grinder, another co-creator of NLP, has identified rapport as the first of three essential elements for creating change in someone’s perception, and thus, influencing them. This highlights the critical role that rapport plays in successful communication.

Exceptionally effective communicators understand the importance of rapport and strive to create it in all of their interactions. As co-creator of Dr. John Grinder has said, “attention is the currency of relationships,” and creating rapport is essential for capturing and maintaining that attention. By understanding the techniques and principles of rapport, you can increase your effectiveness as a communicator and achieve better outcomes in your interactions with others.

In summary, the art of creating rapport is a critical component of successful communication. By understanding the techniques and principles of rapport, you can increase your effectiveness as a communicator and achieve better outcomes in your interactions with others. Remember, if you want to succeed in communication, you need to prioritise creating and maintaining rapport.

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(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

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How using your attention can change the quality of your states (and vice versa)

We can track components of our attention through exploring our states and we can explore our states using attention. We have already discussed state dependent learning in the context of having access to different resources and information in different states. With well integrated, readily accessible states there is overlap between resources and their availability and this includes qualities of attention. In dissociated states, there is limited overlap to resources cached in other states. This is evidenced by lack of access to memories acquired within dissociated states, except when we return to the state in question.

We know the quality of our attention is influenced by our state. We also know that effective learning takes place when we are interested in something and curious to find out more. A state that includes curiosity and interest leads us to attend externally in all senses as we engage with the interesting material we have found.

“We know the quality of our attention is influenced by our state.”

When our attention gravitates effortlessly to the subject matter, we learn thoroughly and willingly. Learning happens seamlessly and we read, listen and attend with pleasure. This applies to anything we find engaging, from formally presented material to informally shared skills and conversations with interesting and fascinating people.

There are many occasions in life when it would be useful to create a state of effortless engagement; when our attention is naturally external and demonstrably with a person or what they are doing and saying. This is the foundation of establishing and maintaining rapport with people as well as the means for learning anything we need to master.

Rapport is the art of engaging and holding the unconscious attention of another person. This is done most effectively by engaging and holding our own attention on that person and what they are discussing. We attend to seeing and hearing them, not running internal movies and soundtracks about the discussion. The same applies to making learning interesting and therefore memorable. When we attend to the presentation in front of us with open eyes and ears, we record the material for future consideration and application. If we are running internal movies and soundtracks or talking to ourselves, we block the input channels and miss much of what is on offer.

“Rapport is the art of engaging and holding the unconscious attention of another person.”

When we create a deliberate state of Being interested by acting ‘as if’ we are interested, natural interest tends to follow. Equally, when we decide to attend externally with eyes an ears and sometimes hands, engagement follows. We take these actions by attending to, or being aware of how we are using our attention and what we are attending to at any given time.


Learning dull or outdated material to be allowed to progress to a qualification you want or need. Setting up useful frames, states and attention.

Create a real, multi-sensory, lifelike representation, ‘as if’ you are there, reaping the benefits of having the qualification or prerequisite you needed. Enjoy the experience of learning what you want to learn or doing the work you want to do. Remember that you would not have been able to do that without obtaining the prerequisite (dull) credential with which you have been struggling. Your attention in this exercise is on the ‘as if’ experience, seeing represented, lifelike surroundings and activities as if you were present. You hear conversation, background sounds and sounds associated with the activities. You feel the clothes on your body, the floor under your feet, whatever is in your hands and the air temperature on your skin. When this experience is complete, return your attention to the present, knowing you can remember your ‘as if’ experience any time you need to encourage and motivate yourself to keep going with the dull stuff.

In the present, how can you frame the dull, outdated or incomprehensible material you have to learn? Your outcome is to make it interesting, fun to learn (this is possible) and memorable, at least for the duration of the program. If you enjoy history, you could frame it as “This is what they used to believe, now”. If it has mathematical elements and you enjoy languages, treat maths as a language. Learn the rules that govern your subject, familiarise yourself with formulae as if they were rules of grammar and then the examples you are offered will make sense. If you enjoy dance, frame your dull studies as choreography. If you are fascinated by patterns, find the patterns that govern your subject and learn examples from the patterns. You can do this by taking three or four examples from the material in your course and determining the common set of information that governs them. This is the frame for bringing learning specific material to life. Your frame should include the function and utility of the learning material.

When you create a frame that appeals to you, it is easier to become interested and possibly even fascinated. When you are interested, you attend in class with open channels (see, hear, feel), take in the material and then retain it. You can contemplate it outside class and develop any further understanding you need. Even your personal nemesis can become possible with suitable framing and attention. A side benefit is that you will have better rapport with your teachers, who will be more willing to give you extra time when you need it. Any time your attention drifts off topic, remember your outcome for learning this material.

Developing Rapport Quickly and Effectively

When people learn to develop rapport formally, their attention is drawn to specific behaviour which is supposed to increase the likelihood of rapport. They are instructed to imitate what someone else is doing, called matching or mirroring for short moments of time, or pacing when matching is engaged over minutes. When rapport is present, we often see people matching each other’s behaviour naturally. Matching and pacing is evidence for the presence of rapport between two or more people, but not necessarily the best method of learning to create rapport.

Matching and pacing require us to use a lot of attention to keep track of someone else’s movements, posture, voice tones, pitch and rhythm. This leaves precious little available to engage with the other person and the quality of these interactions can appear forced.

It is much smoother to act as if fascinated or interested in the other person and their conversation or instruction; just as you do to facilitate your learning. The quality of the conversation will be higher, the result more memorable and rapport will follow. Simply engage with external attention and the intention to be interested. You probably know your intention for engaging with the other person already, so you have a frame for acting ‘as if’ until it becomes real. Again, this is similar to a learning scenario. You have a frame for finding someone or something interesting, a state of being interested and external attention in all senses.

In Conclusion

You can discover how you are using your attention in the moment or by reviewing an event or context. Are you using your senses to attend externally or your representations of memory or imagination? Are you talking to yourself and if so, is it useful? Do you want open input channels or does the context require you to think, using internal processing? Are you engaging your unconscious resources and or conscious attention? Are you distracted by discomfort and if so, can you change it?

When you want to shift your attention, or part of it, you can act on it directly or via your state. When you want to access a resourceful state, you can find it from memory or use your attention to create one. There will be a more detailed and practical discussion on eliciting, accessing, creating and changing state available soon.

Attention Training

Learning how to organise attention to change state and how to use state to modify attention is referred to as “Attention Training” and is an important part of high quality NLP trainings. Attention training is part of syllabus of our postgraduate qualification in NLP – 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE Pty Ltd.

Attention Training Articles

  1. Apply leverage to your attention for productivity by choice
    by Jules Collingwood
  2. 5 elements to enhance the quality of your attention and further your outcomes
    by Jules Collingwood
  3. Creating meaningful change and altering the way you represent the world
    by Jules Collingwood
  4. How you attend to the world can transform your performance in it
    by Jules Collingwood
  5. How using your attention can change the quality of your states (and vice versa)
    by Jules Collingwood

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

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Learn more about NLP, read our Ultimate NLP Compendium of NLP

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Effective Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman’s Four Components for Emotional Intelligence in Business

from NYT Education Life (7th April 2015)

Today we are considering the last, of Goleman’s recommendations for effective leadership in business. Along with self awareness, self management and empathy (without joining others in lack of resources), there are:

Relationship Skills:

  1. “Compelling communication: You put your points in persuasive, clear, ways so that people are motivated as well as clear about expectations.
  2. Team playing: People feel relaxed working with you. One sign: They laugh, easily around you” Goleman (2015).

Relationship skills is a shorthand name for the skills that facilitate useful initial interactions and enable them to develop into freely chosen, functional, mutually satisfying ongoing relationships. Just because you are assigned to work with someone does not preclude the possibility of choosing their company and vice versa.

If you are going to develop a relationship with someone in any context, first you have to make their acquaintance and engage and hold their unconscious attention. This is called establishing rapport with someone. Rapport is not just for first time encounters. Each time you interact with someone, including loved ones, friends and long time colleagues, you need to engage and hold their unconscious attention, preferably willingly on their part.

“To engage and hold someone’s, unconscious attention. This is called establishing rapport.”

Rapport, like empathy, is subject to widespread misunderstanding. It is defined in the previous paragraph, yet many people think rapport is liking and being liked by someone, getting on well with someone, reducing perceptible differences between people, being like (similar to) someone and sharing similar views on important subjects.These experiences may follow from engaging and holding someone’s unconscious attention, but not necessarily.

You can observe rapport in action if you watch people when they are engaged with each other. You will see entrainment of the parties’ rhythms with each other. These include movement, posture, gestures, breathing, voice patterns, rate of speech and sometimes rate of blinking. Certainly, rapport is often taught at this level, but this makes it harder work to learn than necessary and too specific to keep enough attention free for the matter under discussion. Does this sound familiar?

The common feature when people are engaged with each other is interest. This can be interest in the individual, interest in the conversation and/or interest in the topic of conversation. The greater the interest, the quicker and smoother the development of rapport.Thus one person can initiate rapport with someone by showing interest and engagement in their behaviour. Most of the time it will be reciprocated. Demonstration of interest is worth learning. The result may not be instant, but perseverance for a few minutes should free up the interaction making it more comfortable for both parties so interest becomes more natural.

You can create a frame for yourself to facilitate interest for the sake of developing rapport. If you are discussing a boring topic, for example, make a point of discovering your intention for having the conversation. When you find an intention frame that you find worthwhile, that can spark a genuine interest.

A bright but bored medical student started earning unacceptable grades one year. He was told to shape up or be sent down from university. He wanted to join a particular speciality in medicine, but found the course content irrelevant. He loved history and anthropology, so he created a frame for 20th century medical training that said: This is what they used to believe, now. With awareness of his intention and a frame that invited interest in the work, his grades improved markedly. In the fullness of time he became a specialist in his chosen field where he made radical and far reaching contributions.

When you establish rapport with topics and subjects as well as individual people and groups, learning flows with less effort and greater retention. Work becomes more interesting and less of a chore and colleagues can be friends. This is quality of life at work. Rapport enhances the quality of your attention and the quality of your attention enhances rapport.

In the longer term as interactions develop into relationships, rapport continues to be necessary and with application, becomes habitual. This is the underpinning relationship skill. If you go back and review Goleman’s evidence for relationship skills, you will find that he is describing evidence of rapport.

Emotional Intelligence And The Quality Of your Life

To close the series, here is another frame on rapport and by extension, on self awareness, self management and empathy. All of these qualities, skills and attributes, when practiced and in use can contribute to our own sense of wellbeing. When we feel welcome with the people in our lives, we have a better experience with them than if we are on guard or expect unhelpful consequences. This does not detract from our varying needs for time alone, be it five minutes or most of life. When we deal with people, if they are well disposed towards us, we tend to have a better time. This is my frame for agreeing with Goleman’s recommendations. It is not a homily about what should be done. It is a recommendation for increasing your own quality of life.

At my own happiest workplace as an employee, I stayed longer than in any other job I have had because of the people. I started as a casual and had amazingly welcoming experiences on my first two days. By the end of three weeks I had a permanent position, expedited by my manager. I continued to feel welcome and appreciated for the whole time I was there. I only left because Inspiritive was granted RTO status and needed more of my attention.

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE.

Daniel Goleman’s Four Components for Emotional Intelligence in Business Articles Series

  1. Goleman’s Four Components for Emotional Intelligence – Introduction
  2. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
  3. Self awareness and Emotional Intelligence
  4. Self Management and Emotional Intelligence; Three attributes
  5. Effective Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

(Note: If you would like to learn more about Emotional Intelligence and NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

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Learn more about NLP, read our Ultimate NLP Compendium of NLP

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