Why is it important for a coach to gain rapport?

Here at the Coaching Blog- one of the world’s leading blogs on the subject of Leadership and Coaching we quite often post articles by leading authors and authorities- today we are delighted to post an article by Stefan Gemmeker.

1 2

The characters that appear on the above pictures are building rapport. Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres are holing their hands, looking into each others eyes and smiling. They got the agreement! Francisco, the Pope is surrounded by people.  He looks at a dove that just landed on his hand and smiles. He is building rapport too.
Here is the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of rapport: It is one the most extended ones:
It is a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.
I like following definitions:

  • rapport – relationship, especially one of mutual trust or emotional affinity
  • rapport – a relationship of mutual understanding or trust and agreement between people

If we take all the definitions together, we find out that there is a relationship. It appears to be a good relationship, because people understand each other, there is trust, emotional affinity and agreement.
In various definitions, the ability to communicate and the relationship between the parties are key elements. The relationship referred to in these definitions goes beyond the contractual relationship between coach and coachee.  Like in other relationships, there is a commitment: The client is committed to change, to develop, to reach his goal and the coach commits himself to walk the way with the client and to provide support in order to facilitate a personal change.
The coach has to be allowed to enter the world of the client and that is possible only, if qualities typically found in a human relationship are present as well.
These are some of these qualities

  • Empathy: as the he capacity to understand or feel what another being is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference.
  • Authenticity: As the quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy, or genuine.
  • Openness, as being free of prejudice and receptive to new ideas and arguments
  • Genuinely interested :(in the story and circumstances of the client)
  • Respect:. A feeling of appreciative, often deferential regard; esteem
  • Trust: as a firm belief in the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing; confidence or reliance: trying to gain our clients’ trust; taking it on trust that our friend is telling the truth.

And particularly for the coach / coachee relationship, the common belief, that the goal will be achieved.
To build rapport, we can divide the elements found in the coaching relationship in 2 groups:

  1.  How the coach should be. (honest, respectful, trustworthy, …)
  2.  How the coach has to act to express the above values.

Mirroring and Matching (M&M). can be defined as 2 techniques of Neuro Linguistic Programming used to gain rapport at an unconscious level. This is possible by becoming like the person with whom you need to make a connection.
The techniques of M&M may help to create rapport, but the essential values listed above, that can be found in a relationship have to be present for the  relationship to last.
If at some stage there is a mismatch between the way we present ourselves to others and our real and inner self, I do not have any doubt, that our real self will break through and come to the surface.
We have seen in that context, that our body language, the way we react to stimuli are more difficult to control than our words.  Mismatch between how the coach truly is and what the coach represents to be, may break the bond with the client in the long run. The lack of authenticity may at least have an effect on the clients trust in the coach.
Georg Kohlriser is a renowned Psychologist and hostage negotiator. I found that there are numerous things in common between negotiation and coaching and one of these things in common is the need to communicate in order to reach goal.  To make communication possible, there has to be rapport and a bonding process.
Kohlriser in his book Hostage at the table refers to the bonding process as follows:
“.. Bonding is all about how we hold the proximity and how we give and take emotional energy when we are in a state of attachment. The body, the emotions, the mind and the spirit are all involved in the bonding process.”
The hostage negotiator needs to deal with a “client”  who will probably have no interest in communicating and reaching a goal with the assistance of someone else;  even though, rapport building is absolutely necessary in this type of negotiation process.
The coach works in an easier environment, because the client is motivated and wants to share things with the coach.  Here, the will to build rapport does ideally exist on the side of the client and on the side of the coach. The scenario and the actors are different, but rapport is an essential part of the process.
Kohlriser mentioned in the passage I quoted earlier emotional energy; the flow of emotional energy to be precise.
In such a state of attachment, with emotional energy flowing, with an existing bond and good rapport, we will see the coaches attitude as follows:
Warm, Open, Flexible, able to express Energy and Emotions
But now, lets think for a moment of the coach expressing exactly the opposite:
This will be the perception the client will have of the coach:
cold, inflexible, rigid, closed and detached.
These adjectives describe someone unwilling or not wanting to build rapport.
If we go back to the title of this essay, “why is it important for a coach to build rapport” and describe the attitude of the coach as cold, closed and detached, I would not imagine a client having more than one unique session. The next question would be, while being cold, inflexible, rigid, closed and detached which is the opposite to building rapport: Is this person prepared to be a coach?
I would like to end this brief essay with a reflection about the moment of rapport. When should the coach start building rapport?
Back to the picture of the Pope Francisco. The type of rapport he is building does not include a specific individual, but the whole group. With the dove on his hand, he may be described as kind, humble, authentic, warm .  He may not have said a single word to those who came to see him.
It is the expression of his inner self through his body language and the way he acts that tell things about Francisco to the group watching him. According to this, the (non verbal) expression of positive values does communicate things to others and that builds rapport.
The verbal expression on the phone, face to face or in writing is a fundamental channel or means through which a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings is built.
There is certainly a commercial part in coaching.  Before you actually have clients, the coach will have to tell others that he has something to offer that is positive: he can help others develop and reach their goals. As a part of his coaching, the coach will be there for the client and listen carefully, with full attention and appreciation and join the coachee in a journey to a better future.
In his mind, the potential client must already have made a decision and must have pictured the benefit of the coaching process (with that particular coach) before hiring the service.
It is for this reason that I think that rapport building for the coach is not only part of the coaching session or the coaching process, but part of the coaches “trade mark” and his public appearance that will allow him to reach his future clients heart.


  • No comments yet.
  • Add a comment