When Is It Useful To Break Rapport?

break rapportWe’ve established that there are lots of practical applications for rapport, and pacing and leading. So are there any times when you would want to break non-verbal rapport? Maybe to signal that a meeting or interview is over without having to explicitly say so, as a tactic when you come up against a pushy salesperson or in a negotiation, or if you just want to get someone to feel uneasy or uncomfortable for whatever reason.

I once worked with the boss of another company, who didn’t do rapport. It worked very well for him as a tactic in meetings – people certainly didn’t want to waste his time, and everyone in my company was a bit scared of him. How did he do it? He just restrained himself from doing all the normal smiles, nods or grunts that psychologists call ‘minimal encouragers’. For most people this would feel quite uncomfortable – *and* there will be a few situations where it’s exactly the right thing to do.

Fortunately, I had done an NLP practitioner course by that time, so once I worked out what he was doing, I could match him – keeping my non-verbal responsiveness down to an absolute minimum. It worked! He respected me for it and ended up preferring to meet with me rather than my colleagues or my boss.

Rapport and empathy are essential to most communication, but it’s possible to overdo them. One example would be counsellors and therapists who have so much rapport with their clients that they start feeling overwhelmed by the same emotions that the clients are coming to them to deal with. This is a fast track to burnout, so people in the ‘helping professions’ need to learn how to be able to create the right degree of rapport to help their clients, and to be able to pull back when they need to. ‘Compulsive’ rapport, like compulsive behaviour of any kind, takes power away from the individual.

Finally, I’ve heard a couple of reports of NLP co-founder Richard Bandler having some fun with people he meets who have studied some NLP but don’t realise who they’re talking to (these may be apocryphal, or possibly recounted in one of his books). I’ve heard that if he encounters someone doing ‘compulsive’ matching, he will do things like shift closer and closer to the edge of his seat to the point where the person matching him falls off their seat. I confess that I myself have had some fun occasionally with people phoning up trying to sell me attendance on large-scale personal development weekends, but only the really persistent ones…

Practical NLP Podcast collectionFind out more about practical ways to develop rapport with the Practical NLP Podcast Collection – includes audios and transcripts with explanations, practical exercises, tips, things to watch out for, examples, and practical applications.

Image of arguing couple courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

© 2014 – 2023, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.

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