Tag Archives: rapport

Rapport in the Courtroom

This whole blog is becoming devoted to the more personal issues in my life. As you may know, I’m a lawyer (solicitor) a mediator and now an NLP Practictioner. I hope to develop my NLP training into something greater.

This blog post is about one small aspect of NLP – rapport – and how and why it is an essential skill for lawyers (barristers, solicitors, legal executives and, gosh, even secretaries) to have.

Rapport is defined in a multitude of ways, but effectively it’s when two people are connected when communicating, they are on the same wavelength. Rapport takes a while to get used and probably a life time to master but here are some useful steps:

1. Make eye contact first, smile, introduce yourself. Receive the others introduction, repeat their name, ask them something about themselves that’s linked to the environment you’re in.
2. Listen. Actively listen to what the person has to say, as if they are the wisest person you’ve met (they won’t be, but still be interested in them).
3. Pace them/tune in to what they are saying, reflect it back, rephrase it, support them, be empathic. Here’s where you start to build the relationship and let them know you’re listening.
4. Once you have the person on side, you can then lead/tune out, probe, question, reality check, reframe the important stuff or get them to think about their perceptions or beliefs differently.

Every two way conversation needs rapport at its core or else it will be difficult. A one way battle. Like banging your head against the wall. Falling on deaf ears.

How does rapport apply to lawyers and particularly as the title of this blog, in the Courtroom.

I was in Court for an Case Management Conference last week, up against a barrister from London (own account, no chambers). Even before going him, just a polite question from me as to whether his instructing solicitors had provided him with draft directions. The response: pft, we won’t need them after this morning snort snort. Hmm, I said, I wholeheartedly disagree your application is going nowhere fast, so we’ll need to agree directions for Trial. Response: ha, another waste of costs if you ask me, your client is bound to lose, so no point in going to Trial.

In walks Her Honour. I make eye contact and smile. Counsel begins. I’m almost ready to make the unusual step of asking the Court to disregard any submissions on summary judgement because no application has been made just included in submissions filed last yesterday, when the Judge does it for me.

But but but… Counsel continued to argue, not in the legal sense either and indeed at one point the Judge told him to stop squabbling. Counsel was a man without any rapport, any awareness. It was a losing battle but he persisted, which is normally admirable but only when respectful or done intelligently. Counsel had none of the above.

That’s the last I want to hear of that today, let’s look at the other issues, said the Judge.

And so the “spat” between Counsel and Judge continued, me a mere byestander watching, smiling, smirking. A lesson in how not to do advocacy. I’m not an advocacy expert, I do it when required, I don’t profess to be any good. Just honest, to the point and hopefully intelligently. But watching Counsel made me realise that having rapport is incredibly powerful.

Unrapportfulness is yawning and saying sorry that’s boring, when someone is telling you a story. Rapport is truly genuinely being awed by the story.

Counsel had zero rapport. He was literally arguing with the Judge at one point – a battle never to be won.

Last week was a lesson how not to do things. It was also a good demonstration on how my knowledge of NLP can be powerfully used, even as a lawyer.

Rapport: the key – NLP4

Welcome along to my summary of Week 4 of my NLP Practitioner training run by Passion Pumpkin NLP (NLP in leicester). this week’s subject was Rapport.

Rapport, it seems to me, is one of the most essential people skills to have. To be able to be rapportful with anyone is the key to success, in my opinion. And I mean anyone. One should not harbour prejudices or judgements on others, or else we’d find ourselves in a relationship bubble, only speaking with those whom we liked or knew.

Rapport is all about being able to communicate and get on with others. There are several tricks to rapport, all which clearly take a lot of time to master. I’ll look at these in a bit. However, one of the most important tasks is the introduction. We looked at Nicholas Boothmans’ approach in get people to like you in ninety seconds.

The initial greet is thus:

1. Be open (open your jacket, no folded arms etc) and “aim your heart a the person”
2. Eye contact. Make eye contact first, note the colours of peoples eyes.
3. Beam – smile, like you mean it!
4. Shake hands firmly and say “hello my name’s steven and you are?”. Repeat their name 3 times in the conversation.
5. Lean – lean in slightly toward the person.

I love the idea of aiming your heart to the person and I’ve been trying to do that since. I also love making a mental note of people’s eye colours and even people whom I have know for a long time, I didn’t know their eye colour until this week. As soon as you make eye contact first, it’s almost as if the connection is made and the other steps are just niceties!

I have always practiced the other steps, whether intuitiously or through learning somewhere along the line. However, putting them all in a nutshell like that is great help. I’d recommend you read “how to make anyone like you in 90 seconds”, it’s very helpful on rapport.

Rapport is taught in mediation training too, although not to the extent it is in NLP. A observed a mediator who basically said hi to the parties, came out the room and told me that that was the rapport stage done. Its not!

Interestedly, Milton Erikson who a lot of NLP seems to be based on would build rapport with clients for years before leading them, but it can be done sooner.

Once you’ve done the greeting as above, you need to start “pacing” as NLP calls it. My mediation training called it “tuning in”. Either way, you need to “be with” the person. Listen to them, don’t talk over them. Ian’s notes have it spot on: believe they are a wise, interesting person, take an interest in them and hear their story. Some key tools in pacing are: Reflecting back, rephrasing, summarizing, matching. It obviously takes a hell of a lot of practice to be rapportful with everyone, but I think it’s worth it.

When you consider that “the meaning of communication is the response it gets” and that “there are no difficult people only inflexible communicators” we can immediately see why it’s essential to crack rapport.

We also learned about matching and its incredible power. We looked at the logical levels, that is the different areas in which the brain deals in, and how matching can help.

Environment – This is all about “fitting in” – the example is you don’t turn up to a meeting in pyjamas!

Behaviour – includes body language, eye contact, breathing, voice tone, voice speed, language.

I love the idea of matching language. Some people are visual (“The way I see it is…”) and some people are audio (“I hear you loud and clear”) and some people are doers/kinesthetic (“Lets do this!”). To build rapport quickly, you pick up on their preferred language and use it. Brilliant.

Capabilities – this is about being good at what you do and sharing those skills with other

Beliefs and Values – again this is really powerful. Its not agreeing with the person, merely respecting what is important to you. Something many people struggle with, me included, is asking “why” – why do you believe that – as it comes across as judgmental. Better, Ian suggests, to ask “how”.

Identity – this is the core level for everyone. Get this wrong and you’re doomed rapport wise. Get it right and you’re onto a winner. But it is obviously about being genuine and showing interest or otherwise it will be fake.


Over the last week I have been trying to implement the steps to building rapport, although working from home means I dont get to try it out on a huge number of people.

What has been useful is to try out phone rapport, by matching the other’s voice speed, tone and pause length. I think this is incredibly powerful and its certainly made a difference, I believe.

The other point that I picked up is simply imagining that everyone is interesting and wise – even if it turns out they’re not, you should let them prove the point not assume it. Being wildly interested in the other person does wonders for rapport and building the relationship.

Rapport is something that is incredibly important to everyone. As a mediator in leicester, rapport has to be one of the most important skills in helping people to resolve legal disputes. Without rapport, I’ll be seen as against a party and “pro” the other side! If that happens, my chances of helping them to resolve their dispute falls rapidly.

Moreover, rapport is incredibly useful in everyday life. Even if you dont use it to “influence people” like lots of NLP on the internet is about and instead use it to connect to new people, then its a wonderful thing!

At the end of the class, we touched upon the work of Brene Brown who advocates living “with a wholehearted vulnerability”, and discussed being true to oneself and not being worried what others think of you. I questioned this (perhaps a bit too hard and long really, we finished at 10.15pm!) but my thinking was this:

If NLP is about the excellence of oneself and the betterment of one’s relationships, then surely being empathetic and sympathetic and not hurting the feelings of others is a better world view, not as Brene Brown seemed to suggest in that if people dont like what you are then thats fine – you cant please everyone.

Now, I wasnt trying to say that I fall in either of those, but for me, I think if we’re talking about making human connection and being more empathetic, then we should at least think of others before acting. We touched upon “ecology checks” in NLP last week, where we considered our nearest and dearest before setting outcomes. So why not do that in being true to ourselves.

I realised toward the end of that discussion that actually Brene Brown had a valid viewpoint, that should be respected, but I didnt need to agree with it. So perhaps I started to build rapport with a quote. Who knows!