The ART of Communication

26 Oct The ART of Communication

Communication as an art form; Awareness; Rapport; Trust.

Debbie Robinson explains how to achieve and combine these three elements to improve the relationship with your clients.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a practical skill that can create the results we truly want. It is an approach to explaining human behaviour, thoughts and communication that describes how people represent and communicate with the world and which gives principles or techniques for identifying thought patterns and behaviour. How we filter and process our experiences through our five senses, the way we interpret this experience through the language we use and the way we make sense of it all, creates our personal ‘program’, our very own ‘map of the world’. Understanding these unique programs enables us to replicate excellence, accelerate learning, and improve performance and business success.


There are four governing principles you need to be aware of:

1. Know what you want.
In any situation, have a clear idea of the outcome that you want to achieve. Management guru Stephen Covey says in his book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ that the second habit is “begin with the end in mind”. In every interaction, action or thought, be mindful of the outcome you’d like to achieve.
In NLP, the beliedf is that the more precisely and positively you can define what you want, the more likely you are to achieve it. A well-formed outcome enables you to become clear about the benefits of your goal achievement and the possible consequences if you don’t start to take action soon.

2. Be aware and alert.
Have sufficient sensory awareness of yourself and others (Team Dynamics is an excellent way to obtain this insight) and know when you are moving towards or away from your idea.
There are many NLP beliefs, and these are known as ‘Presuppositions’. It is useful to adopt these as being true as they help you to be more accepting of others and less judgmental. One such presupposition is “You can not communicate”.
Living things do not communicate with language alone. Think about animals and plants that don’t have a language, but they still communicate with other members of their species and with others outside of their species. They do this using non-verbal behaviour. Humans, of course, communicate non-verbally too.

Have you ever admired someone who just knows when to ask the ‘killer’ question, or when to stay silent, or when to stop pushing someone for commitment?
If you have, you’re about to learn their secret! It’s all about reading someone’s non-verbal communication. By heightening your skills of sensory acuity, you will develop skills needed to create the success you desire.

3. Have sufficient flexibility.
You need to be flexible enough to be able to keep changing your behaviour until you reach your desired outcome.

4. Take action.


Rapport skills enable you to put others at ease quickly and create trust. Mastery of rapport skills allows you to get on with anyone anywhere, greatly increases your confidence and effectiveness and makes it easier for others to communicate and do business with you. You don’t have to like the person to have rapport!

Mastering the skill of building rapport requires sensory awareness and behavioural flexibility on your part. There are only two limits to your ability to produce results in this area; how ‘switched on’ or aware you are of other people’s postures, gestures and speech patterns and the elegance and subtlety with which you can match them.

So, let’s investigate some of the pieces of the rapport jigsaw puzzle that you need to become aware of and understand in order to quickly and effectively create rapport.

One of the crucial skills in building rapport is the ability to notice and accurately read the non-verbal signals given from another person. Sensory acuity, your awareness of the five senses- seeing, hearing, feeling, smell and taste are vital. Being able to do this leads to flexibility in your communication style.

Following are some of the things that you can notice when you ‘tune-in’ and become aware. Matching these helps subtly to build rapport and your ability to pace and lead:

• Body language
• Posture
• Weight distribution
• Gestures – arms and hands, legs and feet
• Facial expressions
• Eye contact
• Breathing rate
• Voice (volume, tone, pitch, tempo)

It is important not to mimic the other person. If they shift their weight from one side to the other subtly, then do the same when appropriate. If they sit back in their chair, then subtly do the same. If they tap the table with a pen, try tapping yours in your hand. If their tone of voice changes, match it and see what the reaction is, be flexible and above all, be respectful.

We are constantly bombarded with information and at a staggering rate. Our unconscious minds process two million pieces of information every second! So it makes sense that we have to filter out a lot of what is going on. In NLP we explore different ways we can filter information using our language, memories, values, beliefs and decisions.
We use these filters unconsciously as well as consciously. They enable us to control the amount of information we are dealing with, and we do this in three ways: Deletion, Distortion and Generalisation.

The result of filtering information creates our unique Internal Representation (in NLP this is known as ‘Models of the World’), which in turn affect our emotional state and physiology. We can change our experience of the world, by changing our filters.

How we represent our ‘Model of the World’ or how we explain what is going on inside our heads is done using language. Because we experience what is going on around us through our five senses, when we want to explain to others, to communicate, we use our senses to do this. In NLP, this is known a communicating with our ‘Representation Systems’. We all have a preferred system and if you pay close attention when people talk you will be able to notice their Representation System by the types of words and phrases they use.

People whose representation system is Visual (seeing) will say things like: “I see what you mean” or “I can see how this will work”. Those that are Auditory (hearing) may say “I’m totally in tune with that” or “That rings a bell”. Kinesthetic (feeling) will use phrases such as “This feels right” Or “I feel it in my bones”.

As you become more aware of your own and other people’s preferences and develop your flexibility, you can join them in their preferred representation systems to fine-tune your communication and deepen understanding and rapport.

Leading, changes the other person’s behaviour by getting them to follow your lead, e.g. leading them from being slumped in a chair and disinterested into a more upright posture and engaged, or leading them from speaking loudly and aggressively to speaking more softly and in control. This is one way to test if you do have a rapport.

Having a rapport and being able to lead others makes it easier to achieve mutually desired outcomes such as reaching an agreement. It is, however, a choice. There may be some people with whom you would choose not to have a rapport with, and in those cases, you have the option of mismatching.

Mismatching allows you to break rapport, to interrupt or to avoid communicating. To mismatch, merely alter your body and voice so that they differ from the other person’s. This will subtly and unconsciously interrupt the flow of communication giving you the opportunity to redirect the interaction.

General points about Rapport Skills

• Rapport is what we do naturally
• It allows you to join the other person in their ‘map of the world.’
• Rapport needs flexibility of thought and behaviour
• Notice what happens when people get on well – they tend to match
• Notice the opposite, when people are in disagreement – they mismatch
• Notice when you are not getting on well with someone and try subtly matching
• Make it easy for others to communicate with you by practising rapport
• Liking the other person is not a pre-requisite for rapport


Below is a list of 10 fundamental things which your client needs to have, to trust you and your practice. And this trust is crucial for effective communication to be possible.

They need to feel welcome.
They need to feel comfortable.
They need to feel understood.
They need reliable assistance.
They need to feel important.
They need to feel recognised.
They need to feel respected.
They need to feel heard.
They need prompt service.
They need autonomy (by way of involvement in the decisions of their pets’ care).

Experience the world as others do. Rapport makes them and their experiences and difficulties much more understandable. We get all sorts of information from body and voice that is just not there in words! Tap into it!

By Debbie Robinson

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  • David Leedham
    Posted at 09:20h, 17 December Reply

    Found this very insightful, thanks Debbie

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