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The importance of rapport in hypnosis

The importance of rapport in hypnosis


‘A close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.’


Rapport is an important skill for any hypnotist or hypnotherapist to have. In fact, it’s almost as important as the hypnosis skills themselves! Why? Because if you do not have rapport with your hypnotic subject, it’s likely you will be fighting an uphill battle during your hypnosis process. We humans are much more likely to cooperate and ‘do as we’re told’ when in rapport with the person who’s directing us.

Sure, there are some therapists out there who actually strive to break rapport, by provoking, annoying and upsetting their clients as a part of their unique therapy process and to stay true to their contrary ‘therapist persona’. However, this approach does not work for everyone, and you definitely need to be a certain type of person to be able to pull it off successfully (in order to keep getting client referrals). There’s a book entitled ‘Provocative Therapy’ by Frank Farrelly, which is a great read, especially if you’re interested in learning more about how to be abrasive with your clients, and using the opposite of rapport in order to make therapeutic changes. But for now, back to rapport…


How do you develop and build rapport?

There are a multitude of ways to build rapport, and many different influencing factors. This blog is going to cover 8 of the key factors that will help you to build and maintain rapport with not just your therapy clients, but your potential clients, friends, colleagues and even perfect strangers.


Step 1 – Check your appearance

If you’re planning to hypnotise someone, whether for business or pleasure, it’s important that you look the part. No, that doesn’t mean you need a 3-piece suit, pocket watch and top hat… You just need to not look scruffy and unkempt! Make sure that you look relatively tidy and smart, ensure that you don’t have any overly strong odours about you (this means good ones as well as bad ones, as too much aftershave/perfume can be as off-putting as a strong body odour). Aim to look professional in an appropriate style that suits you. No need to wear button shirts or formal dresses if you’re not comfortable in such garb, but if you’re going to wear jeans and a t-shirt, make sure they look decent and fresh, because your appearance will affect the initial ‘judgement’ that is made about you, so ensure that you’re stacking the odds in your favour!

Hypnotherapist woman building rapport by wearing smart clothing


Step 2 – Have positive body language

It’s important to keep good eye contact with the person that you’re building rapport with… but not TOO MUCH eye contact. Too little and you’ll appear unconfident and shy, too much and you might appear overbearing or even psychotic! Aim to keep eye contact for around 70% of the time. As well as that, smiling is a great way to build rapport. We naturally ‘mirror’ people, so if you’re smiling, it’s likely your subject will mirror you and smile back! Smiling itself produces feel-good chemicals in the brain, so as well as appearing friendly, it’ll make both you and your subject actually feel good!

As well as keeping track of your facial expressions, also consider what your body is saying about you. Do you have open, confident body language, or do you appear closed off, shy or timid? It might be that your body language conveys too much confidence, and borders on appearing ‘aggressive’, which also will negatively affect rapport. Ensure that your body language gives off the right ‘vibe’. You can do this by video recording yourself interacting with people (whether hypnotherapy clients or otherwise), and then watch the video back to check how you appear from a third person perspective.


Step 3 – Communicate effectively

When talking to someone, it’s important to engage in ‘active listening’. This means, actually paying attention to what’s being said, rather than thinking of what you’re going to say next, or half-listening whilst looking at your phone or somewhere else. Being listened to and engaged with doesn’t happen as often as we’d probably like, so by giving someone your full attention, they will feel like you actually care. Another great rapport building communication tip is to reflect back things that someone has said in order to check that you understood them correctly (no need to repeat it verbatim, paraphrasing is fine). This directly shows that you were listening, and that you care about what’s being said enough to seek clarification. Also, avoid talking over people, interrupting and not paying attention, that’s a sure-fire way to break rapport!

If you’d like to develop your communication skills beyond where they’re at now, check out Dr Kate’s book, ‘How to Communicate More Effectively’:

Person in library holding a copy of How to Communicate More Effectively by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks



Step 4 – Remember names

This one doesn’t need much explaining. If someone remembers your name, it seems like they actually care. You’re important enough that they remembered your name. This is a great tool of many sales people (and it helps to make them more money!) so, learn to remember people’s names. If it’s something you have struggled with in the past, you can use memory tricks or ‘mnemonics’ to help you begin to more effectively remember names. Thinking of something interesting/humorous that you can ‘link’ to a person’s name can be a quick and easy way to do this. For example, if you’re trying to remember the name ‘Mark’ look at the person and imagine he’s got a big red cross ‘marked’ on his face. If it’s Bob, imagine him floating in the water, his head ‘bobbing’ up and down… Get the idea?

If you want to learn more about how you can improve your memory, it’s definitely worth checking out ‘The Memory Book’ by Tony Buzan, it has a bunch of strategies and techniques that will help you learn to remember anything you want!


Step 5 – Be empathetic

Empathy refers to understanding/seeing things from a different perspective. By recognising that other people may think about things differently to you, or feel differently about things, can help you to communicate with them more effectively. Without empathy, you may end up being dismissive, which can make people ‘close off’. Allow people enough time to talk about themselves, acknowledge their feelings and emotions, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them or feel them yourself. Also, ask them questions relating to what they’re talking about and above all, be curious and emotionally intelligent in your interactions. This empathy will go along way to helping you build rapport with the person you’re talking to.


Step 6 – Mirror & match

Another useful rapport builder is something called ‘mirroring’. This refers to ‘reflecting’ things that the other person does (and says) back to them, like a mirror. You can mirror someone physically, making similar gestured and actions, or sitting/standing in a way that looks similar to them. You can also mirror the types of words and phrases that they use when talking to you. The reason this works to build rapport is because we like people that are like us, so acting similarly to the person you wish to build rapport with can help. That said, don’t make it too obvious. If they scratch their head, and you do the same thing immediately, and then they cross their legs and you copy straight away, it’s too easy to spot and can actually damage rapport, as they’ll think you’re ‘mimicking’ or mocking them. Aim to make your posture/movements similar to theirs, but not exact replications… Also, wait for a while before you mirror a movement, rather than doing it instantly.

With mirroring speech, there are a number of things you can mirror, not just what is said. There’s the tonality, the speed at which they speak, the volume of their voice, subtly mirroring all these things can help you appear to be communicating ‘on their level’. Another important thing to look out for is the type of descriptive language and metaphors that they use, and which ‘sensory modality’ they use when speaking. If someone talks using very ‘visual’ language (I see / Look / Do you get the picture?) and you talk in more ‘feelings/physical’ based language (It feels like / I can’t grasp what you’re saying / Do you take my point?), you might not connect to them in the same way as if you adopted their more visual words.

Women in coffee shop, talking and holding rapport with mirrored body language


Step 7 – Be funny

A fantastic way to build rapport quickly is to make people laugh. However, to do this you need to have at least a mildly good sense of humour, because just saying ‘hey you, start laughing’ probably isn’t going to do the trick. If you’re not naturally a funny person, don’t worry, you don’t need to be. Simply commit a couple of a couple of ‘one liners’, funny phrases, or humorous stories to your memory, that you might tell to elicit a laugh from the person you’re building rapport with. If you don’t have any, give it a Google, there are plenty of ideas floating around on the internet, if you can find them without getting distracted by funny cat videos! On the topic of humour, always ensure that the type of humour you are using is appropriate for the situation in which you’re using it. For example, though it might be acceptable to use a little lewd language or even toilet humour with some clients, others might not appreciate it, and might be offended.


Step 8 – Be appropriate

A final rapport building tip, or perhaps a way to avoid breaking rapport, is about being appropriate. Now, I mentioned the appropriate use of humour in the last tip, but this goes a little further than that. When you’re engaging with a client or potential client, ensure that you remain within the boundaries of that social interaction. I have heard of therapists welcoming clients into their offices, then the therapist proceeding to tell the client about how rubbish their day has been, or how their previous client has put them in a bad mood, or that they burnt their dinner last night, or whatever other un-therapy-related things are on their mind. The client is not there to listen to the therapists problems, therefore it is not really appropriate to talk about them with the client, and might alienate them as well as breaking rapport. Similarly, there are some therapists that have concluded sessions with their clients, and then asked the client out on a date (yes, seriously)! Yet again, this crosses the client/therapist boundaries, and isn’t an appropriate thing for a professional hypnotherapist to be doing. So, when you’re doing/discussing anything that is not directly related to the therapy session with your client/potential client, consider how you might feel if the roles were reversed. Perhaps imagine what it would be like if you went to the doctors for a check up, and the doctor started talking about their own problems with you – would you find that appropriate? Perhaps not…


So, these are just some of the ways that you can build rapport with your clients and potential hypnotic subjects. Do remember how important first impressions are as well as the fact that rapport can be built and broken at any point in a conversation or interaction, so always keep rapport on your mind! We hope that you enjoyed this blog, and if you have any questions about this topic or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!


– written by the HypnoTC team

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