Rapport is when two or more people synchronize their realities to some degree. They are in some kind of proximity to each other, they are willing to interact, they agree on some of the means of communicating, and they understand each other to some degree.
Rapport is usually more sub-conscious than conscious. If you look at two people who are deeply engaged in conversation you will notice certain similarities between them that they probably aren't consciously aware of. They are probably sitting in a similar fashion, they probably make similar types and rhythms of hand gestures, they probably speak in a similar tonality and tempo, they probably breathe at a similar rate.
Those are the most noticeable signs of rapport. If there is rapport there is duplication. Body language will be aligned somehow. The participants will feel that they understand each other, but they might not be able to put their finger on the reason, except that the other guy "makes sense".
You will also notice that two people who don't understand each other or don't get along will not be duplicating each other very well physically. One will be leaning back, the other leaning forward, one speaks in a high-pitched voice, the other in a low, one makes gestures, the other doesn't. And again, they most likely aren't aware of the differences at all.
A process facilitator is a person who is aware of what she is doing in terms of communication. She uses communication itself as a tool. And that includes some of the factors that would otherwise be sub-conscious communication. The facilitator will be conscious of some things that people in general have no clue of.
A process facilitator would want to be in rapport with the client the majority of the time. Then communication flows much better, you can faster find out what is going on, and you can much more effectively do something about it.
A key ability to exercise for a process facilitator is the ability to get into rapport with anybody. If she doesn't develop perceptions and flexibility in terms of body language she won't be able to do that. Then she would probably only be successful with clients who were already very much like herself.
The thing is that you can establish rapport simply by doing the kinds of things that the client is doing. If the client has her legs crossed and is leaning back and you do something similar, then you will establish a level of understanding. If she talks in visual terms and makes gestures in the air, then you can explain things much better to her if you do the same. If she speaks really fast then you will get along better if you speak fast too.
This doesn't mean that you should try to mirror the client exactly. It just means you should be aware of establishing some kind of similarity. You might match the client's crossed arms by crossing your legs. If she uses one kind of kinesthetic words you can use some other ones and still match.
You could of course also persuade the client to use your body language and mode of communication. But, remember that the facilitator is the most flexible person present. It is a lot easier for you to first meet the client where she is at. And then you can take her somewhere else.
Notice that rapport is not an abstract thing. You establish it or break it up by doing very well-defined and tangible actions. If you don't know about those actions it might appear to be a mysterious random thing. As a process facilitator you are supposed to know.
The primary tools you have to establish rapport with is your body language, your vocal qualities, and your choice of words.
In terms of body language, you can match somebody else with:
- posture; are you sitting straight or slumped over; are you leaning forward or back.
- position of limbs; crossing or uncrossing arms and legs; hand under chin.
- gestures or the lack of them
- speed and rhythm of movement; tapping hands or feet.
- breathing rate
In terms of vocal qualities you can match with:
As to word usage, you would mainly notice and match by these kinds of things:
- does she use mainly visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (feeling) words?
- does she speak in abstract terms or very specific terms?
- does she speak about possibilities (can, might, like to, fun) or necessities (must, have to, need to, duty)
- does she mostly reference herself or others.
Examples of visual expressions are: "I don't see wwhy ..", "We don't look eye to eye" "It is not clear to me", "The bigger picture is really fuzzy" "I am in the dark"
Auditory expressions would be: "I keep telling myself ..", "It doesn't ring a bell" "Sounds good to me", "We were talking about ..".
Kinesthetic expressions are: "I feel stuck" "It has been a bumpy ride" "My gut feeling is ..", "I am trying to hold on", "My life is slipping away".
Abstract language not relating to perceptions is: "I am very interested in the relationship between the issues we are dealing with", "It is important to think about our mutual concerns".
The first step is to notice what the client is doing. Notice how she sits, moves, talks, how she says things, etc. Next you would approximate her behavior enough to get into rapport with her.
Some of this is probably stuff you do already. At any rate, what is needed is for you to develop the habit of matching people you need to get into rapport with. It is not supposed to be an obvious conscious thing that you do, that the client notices. Just a natural flexible ability to be in sync.
Where this is particularly an issue is when the client has behavior you otherwise wouldn't naturally match. If you are trying to get through to a loud, agitated, gesticulating person by being calm and slow and controlled, you might just get nowhere. Likewise you will probably get nowhere trying to paint abstract pictures for a person who feels things very specifically.
Before you even think of what you need to do with a client you need to be in rapport. Any efforts of doing something for her will be wasted before then. And the action of getting into rapport is in itself not doing anything for the person. Well, it might be very nice that somebody understands each other, but it is not considered processing.
With a new client, or in the beginning of any session, the first action is to get into rapport. Do whatever it takes to accomplish that. Maybe you need to do small talk for 10 minutes before you figure out where she is coming from so you can match it. If you have to spend the whole first session getting into rapport, that would be a better use of the time then trying to process her without it.
- Now match the other person's body language as exactly as you can while you talk. Notice the difference.
- Two people sit with their backs to each other. One says a sentence. The other tries to duplicate it exactly, using the same pitch, tempo, tonality, and rhythm until the first person judges it to be the same. Repeat until you can comfortably do it. There is a certain unique feeling when somebody else duplicates your voice very closely.
- Find some spoken statements in a book or newspaper. Notice if the speaker is mainly using visual, auditory, or kinesthetic perception words, or if the language lacks references to perception. Construct sentences that match the system of perception that the person is using.
- Explain the value of rapport in processing