The Personal Trainers Guide to Rapport: Body Basics.

Creating rapport isn’t just done with words. The use of body language in establishing rapport is very useful and also a good indicator of how much rapport you actually have with a person.

You can use the information today and learn by people watching. It might sound strange but keep reading and all will be revealed and how if can be applied to your own rapport building arsenal.

*If you want to delve in more depth about this subject I would suggest reading some books specifically vested in this subject. Today I will be giving you same basics to help you in your rapport building efforts.

I am going to cover the following:

– Mirroring.
– Facial Gestures.
– Voice Tone, Pitch and Speed.
– Breathing Matching.
– Subtle Movements – What they might mean.


This is very commonly seen amongst people with a decent level of rapport. As the name suggests their body language is mirrored, or very similar to say the least.

If you’re in a place filled with people gym, coffee shop etc, take 5 min to just sit and watch how people interact. Take a note of how they may be sat or stood, what hand gestures they might both be making, essentially any indications that they are in good rapport by how similar their body language looks.

(Looking for groups or pairs of friends is a good idea for easily spotted rapport through mirroring.)

How many mirrored people did you find?

Now you know what to look for I suggest you try and apply it in your conversations (I mentioned doing this is a previous post.). If the conversation is going well make a subtle change in stance or a seemingly not abrasive hand gesture – If any are copied in a fashion then you’re in a decent level of rapport. Try to avoid too many movements as this will make you seem odd, the occasional one or two will be enough for you know where you stand.

Facial Gestures

These are far more difficult to notice without staring at your potential client like a madman, but that doesn’t mean you can’t watch out for a slight smile, a flush of colour to the cheeks or a widening of the eyes. Maintaining eye contact with a warming smile is a prerequisite of any good trainer, it will help you client feel more relaxed almost immediately.

Find a place to people watch and observe for these traits.

Once you feel confident in spotting these you can look for those few facial tells above when you’re telling your potential client how you can help them. Any of the above are usually good non-verbal signs that they like what you’re saying and feel increasingly more comfortable with you.

Be natural and avoid staring intently.

Voice Tone, Pitch and Speed

Voice tonality is an interesting subject because you’re not looking out for anything specific, well not yet anyway.

The idea behind understanding a persons voice tone, pitch and speed is so that you can copy it, not in a condescending way, but rather a way that makes you seem instinctively more familiar to that person. You will notice people’s voices are somewhat matched when they have established a decent amount of rapport – Think about public speakers, the louder they get the louder the audience gets too.

You can practice this technique to building report almost anywhere, all you need do is strike up a conversation, which I hope is now second nature to you.

Another good indicator as to if you have built a good rapport with your prospective client is to change the pace, pitch or tone of your voice slightly and see if they match it.

I personally would go for the speed of your dialog or the accents on how you say important words, if you speak slightly louder and with more enthusiasm and your prospective client copies then you’ve succeeded.

Breathing Matching

Not always easy to do if the person you’re talking too is on a piece of equipment in the gym, but I would work on this skill when chatting generally to friends and family until it becomes second nature to you.

The befit of this is similar to that of matching a persons voice tonality, it will help them feel more relaxed with you and help build rapport quickly.

Subtle Movements

What I am going to tell you next makes life very interesting. Peoples mouths might be saying one thing, but their body can be telling you something totally different. This also extends to people who may be smiling and nodding away with interest whereas their body might be saying something completely different.

I am going to give you three things to watch for.

*Please note these are some of the things I look for in people because I have found them to be the most common among my clientele and social circle. If you want to know more about body language I suggest either enrolling on a course or getting some recommended books – ‘What is every BODY saying’ is a good one to start with.

– Feet That Defy Gravity –

A nice subtle piece of body language to watch for to see if people agree or like what you’re saying is to notice what their feet are doing. The heel or toe might be elevated for instance, this will mean more often than not they like what they’re hearing. The same goes for people who are sat down and start kicking their feet – This is more subtle in men, but in woman they will literally almost kick you.

– Are You Still Breathing? –

While in conversation with a friend deliberately drop in something you know they personally don’t like, or a subject they would rather avoid, take a careful eye to how their breathing is because more often than not I have found that when people don’t like something verbal or not, they will hold their breath for the slightest of time. This is mainly relevant it the conversation is going well and you have build decent rapport, if you see this then it might be worth leaving that subject you’ve brought up or question you’ve asked to save your valuable rapport.

– Barriers –

While not always done by the body, the use of objects can show you how much rapport a person has with you. The barrier might start off as something big, such as their bag being indirectly between the two of you, or perhaps it might be a subtle as a phone directly between you two on the table or something the person you’re speaking to is holding in their hand. This is a sign that they still have reservations because instinctively we will protect our torso from ‘danger’. True enough you’re not going to hurt them but this is a primal response from the illustrious ‘Lizard’ part of our brains, but if you can’t see any potential barriers or they physically move them then it means your rapport is strong.

I know what I have written above is only a fraction of the skills and understanding out there but I feel every trainer should know these basics. They will help you help more people, after all helping people is the best part of being a Personal Trainer.



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