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How to Establish Rapport with New Coaching Clients: Part 1

How you interact with your clients in the first couple of sessions with them sets the tone for the entire coaching relationship. That's why building rapport with new clients is so important, so you can get them on board and sustain the relationship.

Most coaches naturally excel at building rapport. Most coaches are warm, caring, and give potential clients the sense that they are driven to help others and have the skills to help them reach their goals. But even the most charming, charismatic coaches can use some help to build stronger rapport, or to increase their ability to do so quickly, with certain kinds of clients.

What do we mean by rapport?

Rapport is the feeling of connection you generate with other people. Clients let you know they feel comfortable telling you their stories because they sense you understand.

With many clients you’ll feel that instant connection. They walk in the door and you seem to “click.” Your eyes meet. And if you were quick enough to notice, you’d see that both of your pupils dilated open, accepting the other in a positive way. It’s almost as if you’ve known each other for a long time. The conversation is instantly comfortable and familiar. You “get” each other even before any important information has been shared.

While many clients will feel this easy, like you just met a new friend, others may need a little bit more work to create a productive comfort level. That's why it's important to have a tool kit of techniques. When what you do naturally doesn't work, you'll have other methods to fall back on as you get to know this new prospect.

In the next series of articles we’ll be discussing tools you can use to enhance the skills that build the necessary dimension of trust that allow good coaching to happen. Some will seem natural and intuitive, others may be new to you. It’s always good to have them in your back pocket for when you need them.

Building Trust

To successfully coach someone, they have to trust you. They have to feel like you understand their issues so you can help them reach their goals. It’s critical to do this quickly because coaching prospects often decide as they would in speed dating. Whether or not they continue with you will be a function of how they feel about you in that first meeting.

Clients tell their coaches very personal information about themselves. They need to be comfortable enough to tell you those things and trust you enough that you'll be discreet and non-judgmental. Clients need to know that you have their best interests at heart.

That's why being able to build rapport quickly is so important.

Rapport-building tips

Be yourself

Every expert on relationships, no matter what type, says that being your authentic self is the key to having good relationships with others. Unfortunately, the term "be yourself" has been used so often that we don't even really think about what it means anymore.

What I think that means is allowing yourself to know 3 key things about who you are in general and most importantly in the moment with your client. These are for you to know and not necessarily share instantly. They help you respond authentically as well as in a related way, honoring both you and the other person.

What do I think?

These are the logical thoughts we have about our experiences; our intellectual parts that take in information, make decisions, and exercise choice.

What do I feel?

Many of us try to ignore them, but feelings are the drivers of our thoughts, decisions and actions. What feelings did you come into the session with and which ones arose in your discussion with the client? How might you use them in a way to help the client. Perhaps you’re feeling their feelings for them, because they’re too uncomfortable for the client to know. They could be angry, scared or hurting and don’t want to show it. You’ll want to use your thinking mind to decide when and how to feedback to them.

Who am I?

We are our experiences, our learnings our value systems, our approach to life.

Is who you are in sync with who your client is? Can you work together with this in mind.

For example, if you knew your client was involved in a nefarious industry or pursuit, would you still want to help them? If you hold high morals and find lying and using others offensive, you might not be the best fit. It’s not your job to fix them and get them to choose a more ethical outcome.

I know that sounds obvious, but, there are many experts who say we ALL lie every day. So perhaps a coach who feels accepting of their less than virtuous traits might better be able to help them to their goals, or even help them reconsider them to choose something that would be more beneficial to themselves and their customers.

Who are you? How might that be expressed metaphorically?

Over the years, my friends and family have characterized me as the Energizer Bunny or The Little Engine that Could. I do know that about myself. I believe that if I set my mind to something I can do it. I’m perseverant and resilient.

When does that help me with a prospect and when might that be overwhelming. I’m not for everyone, but there are plenty of clients who thrive in that energy.

So again, Who are you? How might others characterize you? How might you bring that into your practice, your relationships.

More ideas on Building Rapport to come.

Questions? Contact me and I’m happy to help. 201 614-4439

To Achieving Your Goals!

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