Rapport: The Magic Ingredient in Relationships by Steve Mitten, MCC

Coach and Client in Great Rapport

In this brief but compelling article from Steve Mitten's archives, he helps us explore the value and purpose of rapport, an essential element of our coaching relationships.

The ability to establish rapport is a critical factor for the success of any relationships. Whether you're a parent, partner, manager, leader, coach or business person, your ability to establish a state of rapport with the important people in your life can greatly enhance your ability to communicate and get things done.

In common terms, the state of rapport is experienced in those moments when we feel heard and seen fully by another human being, and slip into a natural state of deep connection. And when rapport is present much more effective and smoother communication is possible, resulting in greater understanding, learning and joy.

The main elements of rapport are now well understood. Harvard Psychologist Robert Rosenthal summarizes 3 key elements as:

1) Shared Attention

When two people pay full attention to each other, (as long-separated, very good friends might at an unexpected meeting) a genuine intensity of interest arises and both parties "feel" like they are being truly experienced. So when this deep sense of "being listened to" is present, a natural sense of "shared feeling" or empathy emerges.

2) A Sense Of Positivity

The second necessary ingredient for rapport exists when we feel we are held in warm regard by the other.

Through a variety of non-verbal clues we humans are extraordinarily adept at discerning the emotional state of another. Millennia of natural selection around the evolutionary campfires equipped us to instantaneously interpret body language to determine if someone wanted to mate with us—or eat us.

And these unconscious skills survive in us today. So we need to feel safe and valued to fully open up and communicate.

3) Synchrony

In his book Social Intelligence Daniel Goleman speaks about synchrony—the natural physical harmonization that can develop between individuals—as follows:

People in rapport are animated, freely expressing their emotions. Their spontaneous, immediate responsiveness has the look of a closely choreographed dance... the more two people naturally make coupled moves—simultaneous, at a similar tempo, or otherwise coordinated—the greater their positive feelings.

This natural "coming into sync" through our voice, breathing, timing and body language creates a natural sense of emotional resonance. And, contrary to many self-help sales gurus, this sort of connection cannot be faked.


If relationships are at the heart of much of our success and happiness, and if rapport is at the heart of great relationship, I invite you to explore some of these skills with those important people in your life.

The most effective way to achieve right relations with any living thing is to look for the best in it, and then help that best into the fullest expression. Allen J. Boone

If you liked this article all about rapport, you may also like:

Steve Mitten Headshot

Contributing Author:

Steve Mitten B.ApSc., CPCC, MCC. Steve is a Master Certified Business & Executive Life Coach, and Past President of the ICF (International Coaching Federation). Please Note: Steve has now transitioned into retirement.

Learn more about Steve & see all their articles here >>

Image of Coach and Client Relationship in Great Rapport by gpointstudio via Shutterstock


  1. Monica Ammrousy

    This article reinforces the importance of attunement and of being fully present in the interactions we have with others, so that the quality of our relationships no matter in which sphere of our lives they sit, provide the maximum benefit.


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