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How to Establish Rapport with New Coaching Clients - Part 2

"Collect, Connect and Pivot"

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about “being yourself” as a key ingredient in setting a climate of rapport. When you are authentic and comfortable with who you are, you invite others to do the same with you.

Collect – Connect – Pivot are three basic tenets of dancing Tango, my latest passion and hobby. When my guy gave us the gift of Tango last Christmas I had no idea of how much I would learn about myself and relationships from it. It’s been an exciting adventure. Not only is it fun, great exercise and beautiful to watch when it’s done well, but it’s also about communicating well.

To be a good Tango dancer [any dancer, really, but it’s most evident in Tango] you need to be solid in yourself and your stance. That’s why we “collect” our feet throughout the moves so we are balanced rather than literally being held up by our partner.

When I’m confident in my stance I can then lean in to the other knowing I have control of my position. I can connect knowing I’m in control of my actions and reactions, knowing who I am as a person, partner and dancer. The same is true in coaching.

Leave your personal experiences at the door. We can't control the world around us, and sometimes coaches, just like everybody else, have less than perfect days. You may be upset for a variety of reasons – all valid. So it’s important to take a few moments before you start your coaching session to “collect.”

If you can still your mind ahead of time, take that 10-15 minute break between appointments, it will be easier to create the mind and heart space to let your client in so they can trust you and allow you to be part of their solution. Sometimes just a very short meditation with deep breathing can help you get ready to connect. Or if you have the time, go for a walk. Remember, you have to be there for yourself first, so you can be there for another.


In Tango, connection is sensing each other. The follower “reads” the intention of the leader. The leader reacts to the follower’s readiness to move. The basis for connection is the quality of your attention. The same is true for building rapport in coaching.

If your mind wanders and your attention is not on the present moment, you won’t be able to connect well. The first thing you need to do is to stop worrying about doing it right and just concentrate on your client. In Tango, it’s more about the music than the steps. It’s the flow.

In Coaching, listen more than talk. Make comfortable eye contact, smile, nod, commiserate when it makes sense. Show your interest by fully focusing on this one other person for the time you are with them. Trust your intuition and follow their direction, even as you guide them to tell you their story. Again, flow with them.

While the session unfolds, allow yourself to feel about the client. Sometimes interactions with clients can elicit feelings for the coach. These can run the gamut from positive to not so comfortable. What’s most important is to accept the feelings without judgment. They might be your reactions from the past or something the client wants you to help them with and invites you to feel it along with them. Ask yourself what [s]he may be feeling while discussing goals with you. Shifting the focus onto the client helps to keep you focused and connected.

Match the Client’s Communication Style

Pay attention to how your client likes to communicate and attempt to match her style. If you are by nature a loud, commanding presence, tone it down a couple of notches for the client who is very quiet and shy. The goal here is to try to match the energy that the client has while she's communicating with you.

Matching the client's communication style helps to increase their comfort level. It also helps them feel like you "get" them when you communicate like them, that you are connected.

Mirror words and speech patterns

If you listen closely to your client, you'll find that he uses key words and phrases as he talks. You'll also notice particular speech patterns. Maybe he speaks quickly in short 9 sentences. Or maybe he uses a lot of adjectives to describe what's going on in his life. Like matching a client's communication style, mirror words and speech patterns makes a client feel understood on a deep level and again, enhances connection.

Pivot and More Rapport Tips to come.

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

To Achieving Your Goals!

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