by Arielle Essex

Sensory aspects of rapport

People naturally have preferences for which of the physical senses they tend to use to receive and process information. If you notice what a person’s preferences are, and match those in your choice of response, your ability to achieve rapport will soar. For the purpose of rapport, there are four main channels through which people view their world.


The visual person is generally a fast talker. Visual types see the world in full Technicolor, thinking in terms of pictures, graphs, diagrams, nicely designed brochures, tidiness, space, a good view, pleasant colour schemes and attractive dress. They want complete information, preferably in a form they can see at a glance. Since a picture is worth 1000 words, these people want you to describe what your plan will look like so they can visualise it. Because they have such a vast array of information to convey, they need to speak fast, move fast and use a lot of descriptive language. Match all of these and they’ll like what they see.


This type could be summed up as ‘the natural speaker’. Auditory people tune into how things are said: the choice of words used, emphasis and accent, the melody and rhythm of speech, eloquence, well-turned phrases, expressive dialogue, a well-reasoned argument and skilful debate. They are usually good speakers themselves and very careful about how they phrase things. They may like to hear themselves talk. They can remember exactly what was just said and easily memorise speeches, quotations and poetry. They like listening. They may be musical and will appreciate good sound systems. Match these requirements and they will feel heard.


This ‘intuitive, silent type’ enjoys getting a complete grasp of things. Kinaesthetics are not content with just seeing and hearing, they also want to fully digest information in order to get in touch with how they feel about it. Gut feelings, instinct, intuition, passion, doing the job and putting things to the test – all these give them a comfortable knowing. Because they need to take in more information – visual, auditory, plus get to that good feeling – it takes them slightly longer to collect, process and summarise their decisions. But they make fewer mistakes and prefer to express themselves succinctly with a few well-chosen words. Match their passion and these people will feel they can trust you.


This is the analyst. Analytical people sort all input through a rational filter, analysing everything through logic and reason. They use so much intellect that they can appear cold and emotionless. Their voices often sound flat or monotone, and they tend to use a preponderance of words with many syllables. They often excel in complicated fields of learning, computers, finance, mathematics and law, as well as procedural requirements. They often have strongly-held values and well-thought-out points of view, and they may enjoy doing things by the rule. They require hard and fast data, proof, evidence and undeniable facts. You must be able to back up any information you present. Match their requirements and they will consider you seriously.

Analytical types tend to speak in language that few others can understand. Unless you want to deliberately obscure the meaning of what you want to say, using such dissociated language loses rapport and puts other people to sleep. Below is an extreme example.

Sharpening efficiency

We will deliver a systematic and sustained programme of efficiency and measures for improved effectiveness, translated into sustained local delivery to ensure the delivery of more stretching centrally derived targets. There will be more emphasis on local ownership and accountability for the identification and delivery of efficiencies.

Communication and influencing

We will use clear and focused communications to support our priorities, using the most appropriate communications and influencing methods.

Private Eye, ‘Pseuds Corporate’ section

How to match approachable and credible

Also remember that approachability and credibility – knowing when to be approachable and when to exude leadership qualities – are crucial components of rapport.


In order to increase comfort levels of everyone involved, match all the previously-mentioned traits, looking for whatever people might have in common, being agreeable, friendly, relaxed and easy. Join in activities and participate enthusiastically.


Match the seriousness of the purpose or objective; show respect for the chain of command; refer to established values, and contribute only when you have data or opinions you can back up. Match the tone, content, energy and speed of delivery of the person in charge. Be sure to match key words and phrases.

You may wish to look at the NLP section on Representational systems to learn more about the different sensory aspects.