Why you don’t need to “build rapport” for effective client change

The subject of rapport often discussed in NLP and other forms of personal change. I have always thought that “building rapport” seems somewhat artificial, although I appreciate the sentiment. In NLP part of the rapport building includes mirroring and matching, which in my view is also a bit odd. My old mentor Frank Farrelly told me once that when the co-creators claimed to have modelled him they talked extensively about “breathing at the same rate” which Frank found hilarious.  Frank was never a fan of micro responses and his Provocative Therapy approach required the practitioner to refrain from over techniques and “building rapport” in favour of simply working in a conversational manner with the client. Just to be clear I’m all in favour of making a great connection with the client which is what many may regard as “rapport” BUT as someone who is in favour of the precise use of language the concept of “building rapport” seems pretty artificial and many approaches embrace all manner of jargon terms that only the practitioner really understands!

Why would any practitioner not want to work in a conversational manner? The most skilled NLP folks refrain from the clunky set piece techniques that seem odd to many ordinary members of the public. Other approaches like “Clean Language” often come over as even odder where the practitioner has already decided on a predetermined series of questions often with no regard to how these questions are expressed in terms of delivery.

Many psychological approaches also result in what then becomes little more than a role-playing scenario where real communication from human being to human being s completely avoided. I have often joked that the client would be advised to go on a personal change course in order to understand what the practitioner or therapist is talking about. I have had many clients who have reported this obvious disconnect where the practitioner endlessly uses terms unique to the modality that you would rarely if ever find in everyday language. The PCW stances are a terrific set of tools to engage and usefully assist the client in productive change.

In provocative therapy and provocative change works, the practitioner’s role is solely working to assist the client is useful change by talking to the client “as if talking to an old friend” The PCW stances are used t stimulate new ways of thinking and the practitioner needs at all times to work in the here and now and pay attention to the client’s responses. The different PCW stances give the practitioner a massive range of tools that ensure that the session is never predictable and or/dull. The provocative approach is not designed to be humorous and anyone describing Frank Farrelly’s work as being comedic has really not understood the central core of provocative therapy.

The skill in working conversationally is to be able to track the client’s responses and usefully provoke them into thinking, feeling and behaving differently, so the exchange seems like a simple everyday conversation rather than a formal therapy session. My experience is often the practitioner is far too hyperactive or cerebral in their approach and this is not helpful to the client.


One Response to Why you don’t need to “build rapport” for effective client change

  1. Peter Schutz 11 November 2018 at 2:45 pm #

    Dear Nick
    Yes and No

    With some clients rapport building is vital
    Also with some more hypnoorientated NLP Interventions

    And as training metaphor rapport is valuable to check the psychodynamic of the trainees

    It also gives trainees a good orientation of basic client work , especially with folks who have quite difficult issues

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