Establishing Relationships with Clients

by : Cora L. Foerstner

Part I of this article explored how strategies of Neuro-Linguistic Programing (NLP) can be used to gain instant rapport with clients, leads, and business associates, and more specifically, how to use physiology, matching and mirroring, to create instant magic communications.

Now, how can tonality and words establish rapport?


While physiology accounts for 55% of communication among humans, tonality accounts for 38%. Most people have had the experience of someone saying, “I’m fine. Nothing’s wrong." While the literal words indicate that this person doesn’t have a problem, everyone knows that the tone used can speak louder than the words.

Someone yelling “I’m not mad," isn’t convincing. If this happens in a sitcom, we laugh. In real life, we dismiss the words and read the meaning from the tone of voice. Often tonality is more subtle than these examples, but it is still a powerful communicator. Boredom, excitement, anger, melancholy, disbelief, questions, enthusiasm, honesty are more often communicated through tone, rather than words.

What do you wish to communicate to clients, leads, or business associates? Make your tonality appropriate.

Many people do business exclusively over the phone. When talking on the phone, it is crucial to be aware of tonality. In a phone conversation, both people are communicating via their tonality, often unconsciously. Don’t leave tonality to chance. Enthusiasm, charm, friendliness as well as boredom, depression, and annoyance are communicated through sound.


Tonality includes:

Tone (pitch: high, low)

Tempo (speed: slow, fast)

Timbre (quality: clear, raspy)

Volume (loudness)

If you are talking to someone, who has a high-pitched voice raise your pitch a little. Like matching and mirroring, you don’t want to imitate. Don’t be dramatic, be subtle. Match the last few words someone says.

Speed is important. People who talk fast are often impatient with people who speak slower. People who speak at a slow speed are often turned off by people who speak rapidly. For someone who naturally speaks fast, slower speaking people seems to take forever to say something. For someone who naturally speaks slowly, the fast talker seems hyper, insincere. The cliche “fast talking city slicker" captures this idea.

I was in New York giving a presentation; the person who presented before I did took more than her a lotted time. My presentation was cut short. I began speaking at what I considered high speed and told everyone that I was talking fast because I wanted to get through my entire presentation. Several audience members laughed and said, “We’re New Yorkers. No matter how fast you talk, it won’t be too fast." I couldn’t match their speed. In contrast to New Yorkers, I visited a friend in Georgia whose southern drawl was slow, hypnotic, and relaxed.

Notice timbre and volume! Volume of voice can be very effective with someone who is angry. A few years ago, I unwittingly angered another professor. As he became more angry, his voice grew louder. I kept my voice low and soft, believing that would calm him. I watched rather mystified as he grew more angry as I controlled my voice, trying to sound calm and in control.

If someone is angry, try matching the volume of his voice without matching the anger. It might feel strange, but matching the volume creates rapport.

There is one other thing to keep in mind for phone rapport. If you are the person calling, you set the pace for the phone call. If you have high energy, excitement, enthusiasm, you will put the person on the other end of the line into a better mood. You can maintain the energy, excitement, and enthusiasm while matching tone, temp, timbre, and volume. This was model for me about a year ago. I wasn’t feeling great and was rather down in the dumps. I phoned a business. The woman who answered the phone was energetic and excited. I immediately felt a shift in my mood. When I hung up, I was in a better mood. A few weeks later when I met this woman, I was predisposed to like her. She had immediately established rapport with me.

Use your physiology to get you in an enthusiastic mood: sit up straight, smile, and tell yourself you’re excited. Then dial the phone.


Words may only account for 7% of our communication, but it is an important 7% and complex than other ways of establishing rapport.

When communicating, predicates (verbs), key words, common experiences and associations are vital in establishing rapport. Common experiences and associations are obvious. These areas are often the bases of friendships and business associations. It goes without saying that establishing a common bond with a client, lead, or business associate is good business. Be honest when doing this.

Key words sometimes slip by under the radar. Begin to listen for key words or phrases that someone repeats. This is a simple way of establishing rapport. Repeat back key words. Slip them naturally into the conversation. Again use caution.

Predicates are more complicated. This is going to be the abridged version. Most people have preferred verbs that they repeat. This is more important than key words because the verbs signal a way of thinking. There are four primary modes of thinking: visual, auditory, kinesthetic (feelings and touch), and audio-digital (self-talk). What this means is that people process information through their preferred mode of thinking. I am audio-digital, so I am in a constant mode of checking things out with myself and talking to myself internally. My son is visual. He thinks in pictures; he sees, visualizes.

VISUAL: Someone who is visual will use words like see, picture, clear, foggy, vision, appear, look, reveal, view.

AUDITORY: Auditory people use words like hear, clear as a bell, that rings true; harmonize, resonate, tune in, tune out.

KINESTHETIC: Kinesthetic people use words like feel, touch, get a handle on, grasp, tap into, hard, concrete, catch on. These people think in terms of feeling and touch.

AUDIO DIGITAL: Audio digital people use words like understand, perceive, think, sense, experience, insensitive. These people do a lot of inner self-talk. They are very linguistically cognitive

This discovery will help you communicate more clearly, using someone’s preferred way of thinking rather than your own. If someone is visual and you are talking to her using audio predicates, it’s likely that she’ll miss your point. Consider how this knowledge could change family dynamics? Or your business environment? Communicating clearly could skyrocket to new levels. As you begin to see and hear how this works, it is easy to come to an understanding of and get a handle on how people connect. Notice that the last sentence used all four modes

If someone is audio, you might say, “I hear what you’re saying." or “If this opportunity rings true for you, then . . ." With someone who is visual, you might say, “I can picture that," or “If you can see yourself with this product, then . . ." What you are looking for is their way of processing information, and you are using their preferred mode of communicating to communicate clearly with a client, lead, or associate.

I’d suggest practicing one area at a time. Start with matching and mirroring someone’s posture, or expressions, or blinking. Take it slowly. It’s like learning anything: practice creates ease. Then move on to voice and words. You’ll discover that you will become much more observant and more conscious of what you do and what others do. You’ll also become a better communicator.

Always use these strategies with integrity. You can use magic to make connections with others. Do it consciously and with volition. Make win win situations. If you win and if your client or lead wins, you have created magic.