Establishing Rapport. In everyday life, the existence of

In everyday life, the existence of rapport is an important, if sometimes under acknowledged aspect of any relationship a person has with another. Since teaching requires such a high level of personal interaction it is clear that the process of building rapport is all the more essential. Here I will outline one of the most widely accepted methods – Mirroring, Leading & Pacing.

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) was brought to popularity by Richard Bandler in his book “Frogs to Princes”. It discusses the idea of modeling excellent behaviors with the intent of teaching said behaviors.

In studying and modeling rapport building, it was noticed that people who share a high level of rapport with each other take part in a sub conscious system of mirroring. This mirroring can attach to any part of life, for example body language, speech, dress, humor, etc. On a most basic level, two people who have just met may be sat on opposite sides of a table, in completely different positions, in defensive positions, for example with folded arms. If they continue talking and begin to like each other, it has been observed that they start to mirror each others body language. For example two good friends will often lean back in their chairs whilst talking to each other. What’s more they will subconsciously mirror each others movements. For example, if one person leans forward, the other person will follow suit shortly after. This synchronized movement, is known as pacing and is seen as a path to higher rapport.

Mirroring is not limited to body language, it extends to dress code. For example, a door to door salesman will often dress in a smarter manner when working in middle to upper class area, so as to mirror the people who he is attempting to sell to. If the following day he works in a working class area, he is likely to dress in a less formal manner. NLP experts have discovered that by consciously mirroring a person that you wish to build rapport with, rapport will be build more quickly and effectively.

Taking this theory to the classroom there are several ways that you can mirror your students to build rapport.

The first is dress code; by mirroring the clothing style of your students you can build rapport. For example with kindergarten children, in NLP theory at least, it would be inappropriate to wear a business suit, it creates an unnecessary barrier to rapport building. There is a caveat however since there may be instances, particularly with teenagers where you wish to build rapport but for reasons of class control it is helpful to have at least some differentiating factor so as to have an indicator of the respective roles of teacher and student.

Extracurricular interests are another aspect that can be mirrored. For example, if your students are all interested in a particular cartoon character, by talking about that character, adapting games to feature that character or even taking an interest in the toys the children play with during the class break you are mirroring the interests of your students. The same techniques can be used no matter who your student is, whether it be football teams, business news, food and drink etc.

The NLP theory continues that after mirroring has been established along with pacing as a teacher can theoretically lead students on to another subject, topic or interest and the rapport they have generated through mirroring will follow through to the new activity. Using the body language example again, after a person’s body language has been mirrored, and their movements paced, if rapport is sufficiently high, a person can consciously change position, and in a sub conscious effort to keep rapport, the other person will follow suit.

For example if you have built rapport with a class of young children, and are enthusiastic about their interests, mirror their humor etc, it will be possible to introduce a topic or instigate another classroom change that will be successful due to the level of rapport you have built up. The students will go along with your wish as it would be socially difficult for them to break the high level of rapport that has been built up.


Bandler & Grinder – Frogs In To Princes

Joseph O’Conner – NLP

Neil Strauss – The Game